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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.

06 Oct, 2015

A Dystopian Novel that is all too probable – Ink

/ posted in: Reading A Dystopian Novel that is all too probable – Ink Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias
on 2012-06
Pages: 230
Genres: Civil Rights, Fiction, Occult & Supernatural, Political Science, Social Science
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

What happens when rhetoric about immigrants escalates to an institutionalized population control system? The near-future, dark speculative novel INK opens as a biometric tattoo is approved for use to mark temporary workers, permanent residents and citizens with recent immigration history - collectively known as inks. Set in a fictional city and small, rural town in the U.S. during a 10-year span, the novel is told in four voices: a journalist; an ink who works in a local population control office; an artist strongly tied to a specific piece of land; and a teenager whose mother runs an inkatorium (a sanitarium-internment center opened in response to public health concerns about inks). The main characters grapple with ever-changing definitions of power, home and community; relationships that expand and complicate their lives; personal magicks they don't fully understand; and perceptions of "otherness" based on ethnicity, language, class and inclusion. In this world, the protagonists' magicks serve and fail, as do all other systems - government, gang, religious organization - until only two things alone stand: love and memory.

Goodreads

Oh. My. God.  Just go get this book and read it.

What is scary about this book is that the dystopian scenario is so possible.  It starts with anyone whose family has recently immigrated to the United States being required to have a tattoo.  Black tattoo for temporary workers, green for permanent residents, and blue for citizens.  Get that?  Blue for citizens. It doesn’t matter if your family has been here for a while.  Brown skinned people are still subject to legal restrictions.  Over time the restrictions get more severe.  People won’t rent to Inks (people with the tattoos).  Then there are towns they can’t live in and jobs they can’t have.  Vigilantes catch them and dump them outside U.S. borders.  Next come the rumors of Inks having contagious diseases so they have GPS chips put in them if they go to the hospital so they can be tracked.  Far fetched?  I don’t think so.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Saturday offered up a creative solution to the problem of illegal immigration: track immigrants the same way FedEx tracks packages…

…”We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in
and then when your time is up—whether it’s 3 months or 6 months or 9 months, 12 months, however long your visa is—then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Excuse me, it’s time to go,'” Christie said.

Talking Points Memo on August 29, 2015

From there they start being rounded up.

Ink tells the story of this world from the perspectives of several people.

  • Mari survived an attack on her village in Guatemala as an infant.  Her American father brought her to the U.S.  She has a blue tattoo.
  • Finn is a white American journalist who is covering the Ink story and gets involved in the resistance when he meets Mari.
  • Meche is a wealthy Cuban American chemist with a blue tattoo who is using her family money to support the resistance and her knowledge to develop instaskin, a covering for the tattoos.
  • Del is a white painter who becomes friends with some Inks on his day job.  He is Finn’s brother-in-law and gets recruited to the resistance because he has a truck to smuggle people.
  • Abby is a white teenage hacker whose mother runs an inkatorium.  She volunteers there for community service hours and knows enough about the procedures to be able to help Mari and Meche escape.  People she meets during the escape draw her deeper into the resistance movement.

The story also embraces magical realism.  People in Mari’s village are twinned with a spirit animal.  Hers is a Jaguar who is able to fight the battle on a spiritual level.  Del has earth magic and is able to enchant his land so no one living on it can be found which makes it an ideal refuge for Inks.


This book is haunting.  I stayed up late to finish it and then dreams inspired by it all night.  I almost never give out 5 star reviews.  To get one the book has to be one that is going to stick in my mind and influence the way I think.  This book earned the 5 stars.

At the end of the book Mari visits the village where she was born.  She tries to find out more about her family who were killed there.  She was sheltered by the village priest who was killed later in the raid.  She goes to see a library at a nearby church.  The priest there talks to her about the aftermath of the Ink program in the United States.

“You could have had it removed, ” he continues, but gently, the way I’ve heard Father Tom address the kids he’s catechizing.  “My understanding is that most people welcomed the new administration’s removal program as a way of getting past the misguided policies the tattoo represented, and the bitter history it marked.”

“But that’s the point, Father,” I say, taking care to close the album without damaging the brittle pages.  “I know inks weren’t the first to endure this sort of thing, nor likely the last.  But years from now, when somebody points to my photo in a dusty album in a library like this one, I want him or her to be able to say ‘I don’t remember the face or the name, but here’s the story of the tattoo'”

“It won’t be enough,” he says sadly.

“No. But it’s a start.”

 

About Sabrina Vourvoulias

“I was born in Bangkok, Thailand — the daughter of a Mexican-Guatemalan artist and an American businessman. I grew up in Guatemala, and moved to the United States when I was 15. I studied filmmaking and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y., which — it has to be said — suited me for none (and every one) of the occupations I’ve plied since. ” from her website

09 Sep, 2015

If You Could Be Mine

/ posted in: Reading If You Could Be Mine If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
on August 20th 2013
Pages: 247
Genres: Contemporary
Published by Alqonquin Young Readers
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.
So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Goodreads

The only homosexuals that Sahar has ever met are the friends of her cousin Ali. She doesn’t consider herself to be anything like Ali, who is always working on his next illegal scheme. But when Ali introduces her to his transsexual friend Pavreen, Sahar gets an idea.

In Iran homosexuality is punishable by death. However, transsexuals are considered to have a disease and the government pays for sex reassignment surgery. If Sahar transitions she will be able to marry her girlfriend and live openly. Unfortunately, her girlfriend may not be strong enough to defy convention no matter what Sahar is willing to do.


This is an eye opening look at many aspects of the LGBT community in Iran. Same sex couples are allowed to hold hands in the streets because that is considered normal for friends. Support groups for transsexual people contain people who are happy to be transitioning and those forced to transition by families who feel it is better than having a gay child. Police are paid to protect parties where gay people meet openly instead of turning them in. But get caught and the punishments are swift and severe.

Sahar is blinded by her love for her girlfriend and can’t see her faults. She is trying to make rash decisions without considering all the implications. This is typical teenage behavior but it can be frustrating to read because she is making huge decisions without thinking it through.

I was satisfied with the ending. I think it is realistic for the situation.

About Sara Farizan

“Sara Farizan was born on August 2, 1984 in Massachusetts. Her parents immigrated from Iran in the seventies, her father a surgeon and her mother a homemaker. Sara grew up feeling different in her private high school not only because of her ethnicity but also because of her liking girls romantically, her lack of excitement in science and math, and her love of writing plays and short stories. So she came out of the closet in college, realized math and science weren’t so bad (but not for her), and decided she wanted to be a writer. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. ” from Goodreads

04 Sep, 2015

Why Throne of Glass is Not Okay

/ posted in: Reading Why Throne of Glass is Not Okay Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
on August 7th 2012
Pages: 406
Genres: Young Adult
Format: eBook

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.
Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Goodreads

This series is all the rage for a lot of the book people I follow on Twitter.  When I saw the first book was available to read on Oyster I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  I got about 25% through and quit because I was bored.  This week another book in the series came out and people on  Twitter were all excited like it was the second coming of Harry Potter.  I decided to try again to see if I missed something.  I forced myself to finish it this morning.  Yeah, forced.  That’s not a good sign.  Checking the % finished number every few pages wasn’t a good sign either.

I checked reviews on Goodreads after I finished and am relieved to see that I am not alone.  This seems to be a love it or hate it book.

Here’s what bothered me.

Creepy Male Main Characters

Celaena is a seventeen year old female assassin who has been in a prison camp for a year.  She is taken out by a Prince and the Captain of his guard to compete in a contest.  If she doesn’t win the contest she is going to be sent back to prison.  Once at the palace she is kept in her rooms with guards on the doors unless escorted out.

These two men who took her out of the prison have complete control of her life.  They have become her jailers.  What do they do?  They take turns coming into her room in the middle of the night when she is in bed.  WTF?  That’s not okay.

You know what is even worse?  Sometimes she doesn’t wake up when they come in so they stand there and watch her sleep.  No, just no.  Why is this somehow considered sweet and romantic in YA books?  It is not sweet.  That is Get Me A Restraining Order behavior. (Why is such a supposedly fearsome killer such a heavy sleeper that they creep up on her all the time anyway?)

So then one of them starts coming onto her.  He’s supposedly some major womanizer but of course he wants to give it all up for her.  Well, except for that time she is escapes and sees him kissing on another woman while Calaena is supposed to be locked up.  How does our heroine react?  Does she realize that he is a creep?  Don’t be silly.  She wonders what is wrong with her and why she feels so jealous.

At the end of the book, (that’s your spoiler alert) she decides to just be friends with him because she wants to be free at the end of her sentence and make decisions for herself.  Good on her.  But then the other guy comes along and finds out about this decision.  His response?  He ogles her short nightgown because he always comes in unexpectedly at night.  Then this conversation happens.

He pulled out the chair in front of him and sat down.  She filled a goblet with wine and handed it to him.  “To four years until freedom” she said, lifting her glass.

He raised his in salute.  “To you, Celaena.”

Their eyes met, and (creepy dude #2) didn’t hide his smile as she grinned at him.  Perhaps four years with her might not be enough.

 

Right, she’s celebrating the fact that eventually she is going to be free to make her own decisions and he is thinking that now that Creepy Dude #1 is out of the picture that she is all his for the next four years.  Chilling.

Magical Puppy Raising

At one point in the story Calaena is given a puppy by Creepy Dude #1.  Here is her response.

…I want her trained.  I don’t want her urinating on everything and chewing on the furniture and shoes and books.  And I want her to sit when I tell her to and lay down and roll over and whatever it is that dogs do.  And I want her to run – run with the other dogs when they’re practicing.  I want her to put those long legs to use.”

…. “When I’m training” — she kissed the pup’s soft head, and the dog nestled her cold nose against Celaena’s neck — “I want her in the kennels, training as well. When I return in the afternoon, she may be brought to me.  I’ll keep her in the night.” Celaena held the dog at eye level.  The dog licked her legs in the air.  “If you ruin any of my shoes,” she said to the pup, “I’ll turn you into a pair of slippers.  Understood?”

 

Oh, Lord, help me.  It is attitudes like this why I have to remind myself on a daily basis that it is illegal to beat people.  It is a puppy.  It is a baby.  It doesn’t know all the rules just because you explain them once.  She can’t hold her urine.  A person locked up in a room can’t take her outside and she isn’t allowed to urinate in the room.  Good plan.

I have this discussion all the time.  People bring me 9 week old dogs thinking there is something horribly wrong with them because they aren’t housebroken yet.  Or they want drugs for the 4 month old because he is chewing on things.  Have they taught the dog manners?  Of course not.  Dogs are just supposed to know or else magical dog trainers swoop in during the night to teach.  Trust me – sending a young puppy outside in the morning for a few hours and then locking her up in a room for the rest of the day and ignoring her (which she does), does not a trained dog make.  This is a recipe for an abandoned dog when it doesn’t live up to expectations.

 

 

 

About Sarah J. Maas

“Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.” from Goodreads

25 Aug, 2015

The Outlander King

/ posted in: Reading The Outlander King The Outlander King by Hilary Rhodes
on June 1, 2015
Pages: 476
Series: The Aetheling's Bride #1
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

The story of The Lion and the Rose and the Norman Conquest continues in this spellbinding new historical fiction series from author Hilary Rhodes, pulling back the curtain on the lives of two remarkable women connected across centuries: Aislinn, a seventeen-year-old English girl caught up in the advancing army of the “outlander king,” the man who will become known to history as William the Conqueror. Thrust into the center of the new Norman court and a dizzying web of political intrigue and plotting princes, she must choose her alliances carefully in a game of thrones where the stakes are unimaginably high. Embroiled in rebellions and betrayals, Aislinn learns the price of loyalty, struggles to find her home, and save those she loves – and, perhaps, her own soul as well.

Almost nine hundred years later in 1987, Selma Murray, an American graduate student at Oxford University, is researching the mysterious “Aethelinga” manuscript, as Aislinn’s chronicle has come to be known. Trying to work out the riddles of someone else’s past is a way for Selma to dodge her own troubling ghosts – yet the two are becoming inextricably intertwined. She must face her own demons, answer Aislinn’s questions, and find forgiveness – for herself and others – in this epically scaled but intimately examined, extensively researched look at the creation of history, the universality of humanity, and the many faces it has worn no matter the century: loss, grief, guilt, redemption, and love.

Goodreads

After the Battle of Hastings William the Conqueror rode across England taking a child from each of the farms he came to as a tribute.  He decided to take Aislinn along with her brother for reasons that aren’t clear to anyone but him.  She becomes helpful though with some herb knowledge and can help work as a healer.

When they get to the capital she is given as a servant to the family of the deposed heir to the throne of England.  This puts her in the middle of a web of secrets and plots between the Normans and those trying to return to Saxon rule.

Somehow I missed the fact that there were multiple times lines in this story so when the story suddenly switched from the 1060s to 1987 it was a bit of a shock.  I liked the stories in both timelines but they aren’t tied together enough in this book to have them relate to each other well.  An excerpt of the next book at the end shows that book starting with the 1987 story that ties things together a bit more.  That feels like it should have been the end of this book to have it make more sense.


 

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Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
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Tuesday, September 1
Spotlight at The True Book Addict

Wednesday, September 2
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Thursday, September 3
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Guest Post at Books and
Benches

Friday, September 4
Spotlight at A
Literary Vacation

Saturday, September 5
Review at A Fold in
the Spine

Monday, September 7
Review & Excerpt at Queen of All She Reads

Tuesday, September 8
Review at Book
Nerd

Wednesday, September 9
Spotlight & Excerpt at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, September 10
Review at Yelena Casale’s
Blog

Friday, September 11
Spotlight & Excerpt at The
Lit Bitch

 

About Hilary Rhodes

Hilary Rhodes is a scholar, author, blogger, and all-around geek who fell in love with medieval England while spending a year abroad at Oxford University. She holds a B.A. and M.A. in history, and is currently preparing for doctoral studies at the University of Leeds, fulfilling a years-long dream to return to
the UK. In what little spare time she has, she enjoys reading, blogging about her favorite TV shows, movies, and books, music, and traveling.

01 Jun, 2015

Feminist Romance?

/ posted in: Reading Feminist Romance? The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
on July 15th 2014
Pages: 259
Series: The Brothers Sinister #4
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Published by Courtney Milan
Format: eBook
Source: Library

An idealistic suffragette... Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope...but she needs more rope, and she needs it now. ...a jaded scoundrel... Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She's only a pawn to use in his revenge. ...and a scandal seven years in the making.

Goodreads

I haven’t read much romance lately. I do like a good historical English romance though as evidenced by my recent trip to Bath just to see the Austen stuff. I was going to read a Regency romance while I was there but didn’t get to it. Soon after getting home though I came across this book on a list of feminist romances.

Feminist romance, really? I thought the whole point of romance books was to find someone to take care of you. It seems that way in historicals. No matter how capable the woman is she gladly gives it all up for the man who saves her.

Then I read this.

stupid

Yes!  She followed that up with this fine speech.


 

“You should read more of my newspaper. I published an excellent essay by Josephine Butler on this very subject. Men use sexuality as a tool to shut up women. We are not allowed to speak on matters that touch on sexual intercourse — even if they concern our own bodies and our own freedom — for fear of being labeled indelicate. Any time a man wishes to scare a woman into submission, he need only add the question of sexual attraction, leaving the virtuous woman with no choice but to blush and fall silent. You should know, Mr. Clark, that I don’t intend to fall silent. I have already been labeled indelicate; there is nothing you can add to that chorus.”


 

The book is a bit more, shall we say – descriptive?, than I’m used to from reading my grandmother’s uber-clean romance books.  In her books people get married and then they may kiss and then magically babies appear.  In this book they got married halfway through the book and then they explained in detail how babies are made to appear.  I’ve said before how I feel about that.

Overall I liked the book.  It was a nice change from the traditional formulaic period romances that I’ve read before.

About Courtney Milan

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

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

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

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