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23 May, 2016

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

/ posted in: Reading Sofia Khan is Not Obliged Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
on September 3rd 2015
Pages: 456
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Great Britain
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England

"Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?'
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?


Sofia Khan’s almost-fiance has told her that he expects them to live with his parents in side by side houses connected through a hole in the wall.  She breaks off the relationship.

Now she is forced to face her extended family again who can’t figure out what her problem is. She’s so old! She’s (gasp) 30! How will she ever find a husband at her advanced age?

Her mother says it is because she insists on wearing a hijab. Everyone else just thinks she is too picky.

When she makes a comment in a staff meeting about her dating life, her superiors decide that she should write a book about Muslim dating. She signs up for Muslim online dating sites to try to gain stories for the book. That’s in between dealing with crisis after crisis with her sister’s wedding and hiding her father’s cigarettes from her mother and trying to convince her friend not to marry a man who is already married.

I loved this book.  It was a perfect light read.  I actually stayed up way too late reading it while trying to convince myself that even though I was only 56% done I could finish it fairly soon.  The husband had to gently remind me that I had to go to work in the morning and I really should get some sleep.

Sofia had a great voice.  She’s a modern Londoner who takes her faith seriously which makes her a bit of an outsider to her coworkers and to her family.  She deals with racism on the streets of London.  She isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do when she grows up but she knows it isn’t being a live in slave to a demanding mother-in-law.  She isn’t particularly interested in learning to cook anyway.

This is Ayshia Malik’s first book.  I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes next.

09 May, 2016


/ posted in: Reading Terrier Terrier (Beka Cooper, #1) by Tamora Pierce
on October 24th 2006
Pages: 584
Series: Beka Cooper#1
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, commonly known as "the Provost's Dogs," in Corus, the capital city of Tortall. To the surprise of both the veteran "Dogs" and her fellow "puppies," Beka requests duty in the Lower City. The Lower City is a tough beat. But it's also where Beka was born, and she's comfortable there.
Beka gets her wish. She's assigned to work with Mattes and Clary, famed veterans among the Provost's Dogs. They're tough, they're capable, and they're none too happy about the indignity of being saddled with a puppy for the first time in years. What they don't know is that Beka has something unique to offer. Never much of a talker, Beka is a good listener. So good, in fact, that she hears things that Mattes and Clary never could - information that is passed in murmurs when flocks of pigeons gather ... murmurs that are the words of the dead.


Recently I’ve been seeing posts singing the praises of Tamora Pierce.  I had to admit that I had never heard of her even though she written a gazillion books.  (There are 79 distinct works listed on Goodreads.)  I decided to give her a try and Terrier was an available ebook on my library’s website.

I’m not sure what I was expecting.  Fantasy?  YA?  Whatever it was, it wasn’t this.

This book reads more like a crime story than typical fantasy.  There are fantasy elements.  It is set in a fictional world with its own unique idioms and cultures.  There is magic.  But those things are secondary to the story being told.

Beka is a police trainee.  Real police are known as Dogs and trainees are Puppies.  She is assigned to a rough part of the city by request and is partnered with a well known team of Dogs.  She wants to be here because she comes from these streets.  As a child she helped the Provost with a tip on a crime gang and when he went to thank her he found her living with her terminally ill mother and her younger siblings.  He took the family into his household.  Now her siblings are growing up with aspirations of a better life than Beka could have ever imagined for them but she is afraid that they are ashamed of her and where they came from.

Beka is also magical.  She can hear the ghosts that ride on the backs of pigeons.  She can hear the snippets of conversation that get caught up in wind swirls in city corners.  She has a feline companion named Pounce who may or may not be a God. He isn’t saying. She uses this information to find out about two crime sprees going on under the noses of the Dogs.

She has other issues too.  Twenty percent of puppies die during training.  A charming gangster who is new in town and his entourage decide to move into her boarding house.  Her childhood best friend has married into a crime lord’s family and now her son was murdered.

The policing skills she are learning are a bit questionable.  She learns the correct etiquette for taking individual bribes and how to collect the weekly bribes due to the Dogs as an organization.  She is learning the proper way to beat criminals into submission.  Bribery and police brutality are just how things are done in this world.

I enjoyed this first book in the Beka Cooper series. I will definitely be reading more. Thanks to Nori and everyone else who has recommended her recently.

Beka Cooper by CPattenon DeviantArt

27 Apr, 2016

The Midnight Robber

/ posted in: Reading The Midnight Robber Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
on March 1st 2000
Pages: 329
Genres: Fantasy & Magic
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

It's Carnival time, and the Carribean-colonized planet of Toussaint is celebrating with music, dance and pageantry. Masked "Midnight Robbers" waylay revelers with brandished weapons and spellbinding words. But to young Tan-Tan, the Robber Queen is simply a favourite costume to wear at the festival--until her power-corrupted father commits an unforgivable crime.
Suddenly, both father and daughter are thrust into the brutal world of New Half-Way Tree. Here monstrous creatures from folklore are real, and the humans are violent outcasts in the wilds. Here Tan-Tan must reach into the heart of myth--and become the Robber Queen herself. For only the Robber Queen's legendary powers can save her life...and set her free.


Toussaint is a world first settled by people from the Caribbean.  Everything is controlled and monitored by nanobots.  People are provided for and no one needs to do manual labor unless they want to do it.  Tan-Tan’s father is the mayor of her town.  He and her mother have a tempestuous relationship.  Both are immature and self-centered.  When her father commits a crime, he knows how he will be punished.  He will be sent through a dimensional rift to New Half-Way Tree, another version of Toussaint without the technology.  This is a one way journey.  No one ever comes back.

I’m been meaning to read Nalo Hopkinson for a while.  In the beginning this was a very difficult book for me to read because of the Creole that it is written in.  She uses pronouns and verb tenses that don’t match.  It actually hurt to read.  I’m such a grammar snob, that even though I knew it was deliberate, it was so jarring that I didn’t think I could get into the story because of it.  Eventually, I was able to let it slide enough to read the story.  I think it was the repetitive nature of the wrongness that numbed me to it.

Another thing I wondered while reading this – Are there any novels about Caribbean men that portray them in a positive light?  Granted, I’ve only read novels written by Caribbean women so they may be biased but they can’t all be this horrible.  Tan-Tan’s father is lazy and arrogant.  He takes Tan-Tan to New Half-Way Tree with him without making any preparations for their new life.  He is mean to the local population.  He doesn’t have any redeeming qualities.  It is hard to read about Tan-Tan loving him so much when he is so awful.

This is also a story about colonization.  There is a native race on New Half-Way Tree.  The prisoner-immigrants from Toussaint treat them as inferior.  They don’t know that the natives are playing along with their ignorance.  Tan-Tan finds herself at the mercy of them after a few years on the planet.  Should they help her or will her presence in their community lead to disaster?


22 Apr, 2016

A Thousand Naked Strangers

/ posted in: Reading A Thousand Naked Strangers A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard
on January 5th 2016
Pages: 288
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Georgia

A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.
In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.


When I started reading this book I realized that I had missed some important information in my life.  I didn’t know the difference between EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and Paramedics.  Basically, paramedics are trained to make medical decisions like what drugs to give and EMTs are not.  They can start IVs and move patients but don’t make the medical treatment decisions.

To become an EMT a person takes a course and then has to pass a test. When the author did this, he entered into a whole new world.

His first position was with a private ambulance company.  They mostly transport elderly patients from nursing homes to appointments.  The turnover rate for employees was staggeringly high.

His goal was to work for Grady.  That is a hospital in Atlanta that handles most of the inner city.  Along the way he goes to paramedic school and has to deal with burn out after years of working in a high crime area with little to no support.

He sees people at their worst from dealing with arguing relatives to picking up mental ill people on drugs to getting an overdose patient’s friends to admit to what they had taken so they can help them.  He has to deal with coworkers who are burnt out themselves from the hours and abuse.

The book goes into detail about what it is like to handle accident scenes and medical emergencies.  It reads like having a conversation with anyone in a medical field where eventually you realize that the normal people around you are starting to get grossed out and you don’t understand why.

20 Apr, 2016

Owl and the Japanese Circus

/ posted in: Reading Owl and the Japanese Circus Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish
on January 13th 2015
Pages: 432
Series: The Adventures of Owl #1
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Urban
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Las Vegas, Bali, Tokyo

Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem—and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.


Owl had a promising career ahead of her as an archeologist until she uncovered a supernatural site and her department made her a scapegoat. Archeologists don’t allow publication of supernatural sites. They keep them covered up.

Now Owl is using her knowledge as a very discreet and very expensive thief. It was going well until she accidentally exposed an ancient vampire to the sun during a job and his underlings are angry. Now she’s on the run and living off the grid with her Egyptian Mau cat, Captain. His breed was developed to sense and fight vampires.

The Japanese Circus is a Las Vegas casino that turns out to be owned by a dragon.  She did a job for him without knowing he was a dragon and now he wants another.  She can’t really refuse and stay alive.

This is a great start to a series that is different than other urban fantasy stories.  Owl’s friend Nadya got out of the archeology program too and now runs a bar in Tokyo.  You find out a lot about the host and hostess bar culture in Tokyo where having an attractive person pay attention to you is part of the provided atmosphere.  The creatures in this supernatural world are familiar but each has a few different characteristics that aren’t commonly seen.

Owl is stubborn and doesn’t listen well to advice.  She gets into trouble over and over because of it.  That can get a little annoying to read but the author has made it make sense in context.  I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.


A photo posted by @dvmheather on

04 Apr, 2016


/ 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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.



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....



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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)

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.


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.