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10 Nov, 2017

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba, Bryan Mealer
on September 29, 2009
Pages: 292
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by HarperCollins
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Malawi

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, Africa, a country plagued by AIDS and poverty. Like most people in his village, his family subsisted on the meager crops they could grow, living without the luxuries—consider necessities in the West—of electricity or running water. Already living on the edge, the situation became dire when, in 2002, Malawi experienced the worst famine in 50 years. Struggling to survive, 14-year-old William was forced to drop out of school because his family could not afford the $80-a-year tuition.Though he was not in a classroom, William continued to think, learn—and dream. Armed with curiosity, determination, and a library book he discovered in a nearby library, he embarked on a daring plan—to build a windmill that could bring his family the electricity only two percent of Malawians could afford. Using scrap metal, tractor parts, and blue-gum trees, William forged a crude yet working windmill, an unlikely hand-built contraption that would successfully power four light bulbs and two radios in his family’s compound. Soon, news of his invention spread, attracting interest and offers of help from around the world. Not only did William return to school but he and was offered the opportunity to visit wind farms in the United States, much like the ones he hopes to build across Africa.

Goodreads

This story started slow for me.  I’m not a fan of detailed description of childhood in memoirs unless you were doing something very interesting as a child.  Most people aren’t.

The main point of this story started with a drought and subsequent famine that hit Malawi in the early 2000s.  It was devastating.  The author’s family was no longer able to afford his school fees so he had to drop out.  He wanted to continue his education so he went to a library and started to read the books there.  He applied what he learned in a basic physics book to build a windmill from spare parts.  This allowed his family to have lights in their house for the first time.  He went on to build other windmills to pump water for irrigation and personal use, freeing up hours a day that were otherwise spent going to and from wells. He even made cell phone charging stations.

The dynamo had given me a small taste of electricity, and that made me want to figure out how to create my own. Only 2 percent of Malawians have electricity, and this is a huge problem. Having no electricity meant no lights, which meant I could never do anything at night, such as study or finish my radio repairs, much less see the roaches, mice, and spiders that crawled the walls and floors in the dark. Once the sun goes down, and if there’s no moon, everyone stops what they’re doing, brushes their teeth, and just goes to sleep. Not at 10:00 P.M., or even nine o’clock—but seven in the evening! Who goes to bed at seven in the evening? Well, I can tell you, most of Africa.

 

This part of the story was interesting.  He was dedicated to the idea of building his windmill but scavenging the parts took a long time.  It showed a lot of ingenuity.

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 8.29.59 PM

One strange section was about witchcraft.  He reports it as fact.

The previous famine had led to reports in the southern region that the government was banding with packs of vampires to steal people’s blood, then selling it to international aid groups.

 

Following the strange beast of Dowa, many people across Malawi reported having their private parts stolen in the night, many of them waking up in the morning with their sheets bloody. Men who’d been drinking in bars were the easiest targets. As they stumbled home in the darkness, an evil creature—perhaps a gang of witch children—would pull them behind a tree and remove their parts with a knife. It was later revealed that most of the victims had been virgins, and their parts had been sold to witches, Satan worshippers, and business tycoons.

 

This often happens while we sleep—the witch children can take our heads and return them before morning, all without us knowing. It’s a serious problem.

 

He was accused of witchcraft for making electricity from the wind.  A bad storm came and the windmill was spinning rapidly.  People accused him of causing storms. 

This book was published in 2009. Since then William has graduated from college. He has an NGO to support community based projects around his hometown. On his webpage you can even donate to the library where he found his physics book.

This is a great story of innovation and survival.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Africa
  • POC authors
27 Jun, 2017

Kiss Carlo

/ posted in: Reading Kiss Carlo Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani
on June 20th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by HarperCollins
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.
Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

Goodreads

Kiss Carlo is a meandering family story that takes place over a few years in post WWII Philadelphia.  The Palazzini family lives together in a large house containing Uncle Dom and Aunt Jo, their three sons and their wives, and a cousin, Nicky.  The men all work together also in the family cab company.

What no one knows is that Nicky has been moonlighting at a struggling Shakespeare theater.  He’s a stagehand but an emergency forces him onstage mid-play and makes him realize that he wants to act.  He also has a man die in his cab which forces the realization that he isn’t doing exactly what he wants with his life.  His actions shake up the whole Palazzini family when Nicky breaks off his engagement and moves out of the house.

The book is full of distinct and interesting characters.  With such a large cast it could have been hard to keep the characters separate, but the author did a very good job of writing each one as a individual with their own backstory, personality traits, and motivations.  There are no “generic sisters-in-law” here.

Hortense is the African-American dispatcher and telegraph operator at the cab company.  She’s no nonsense and proudly self-educated.  Her husband doesn’t appreciate her and demeans her.  She forges a friendship with a housebound Italian widow over a weekend who shares part of her way of making marinara sauce.  This leads to a business opportunity for Hortense because she’s savvy enough to see how a simple sauce fits into the need for convenience for the modern house wife.  Adding this character gives an outsider’s view of the Italian families and neighborhood of Philadelphia.

This is a long book that doesn’t have one distinct through story.  It is a book that you just need to settle into and let it take you along for the ride instead of trying to imagine where the journey is going to take you.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins
| Amazon | Barnes
& Noble

About Adriana Trigiani

Adriana Trigiani is the bestselling author of 17 books, which have been published in 36 countries around the world. She is a playwright, television writer/producer and filmmaker. She wrote and directed the film version of her novel Big Stone Gap, which was shot entirely on location in her Virginia hometown. She is co-founder of the Origin Project, an in-school writing program that serves more than a thousand students in Appalachia. She lives in Greenwich Village with her family.

Visit Adriana at her website: www.adrianatrigiani.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • Foodies Read 2017
25 Mar, 2015

Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch

/ posted in: FoodReading Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch Service Included by Phoebe Damrosch
on September 25th 2007
Pages: 240
Genres: Biography & Autobiography
Published by HarperCollins
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller. Service Included is the story of her experiences there: her obsession with food, her love affair with a sommelier, and her observations of the highly competitive and frenetic world of fine dining. She also provides the following dining tips:Please do not ask your waiter what else he or she does.Please do not steal your waiter's pen.Please do not say you're allergic when you don't like something.Please do not send something back after eating most of it.Please do not make faces or gagging noises when hearing the specials—someone else at the table might like to order one of them.After reading this book, diners will never sit down at a restaurant table the same way again.

Goodreads

Yeah, so there’s that.

Then there was this sentence on page 7 describing some time in France.

“I discovered a woman who made sausages from donkey meat, and I lived on baguettes and sausage for my remaining time there.”

No.  Just no.  I love donkeys and not for lunch.  When I read that sentence for the first time my eyes lingered on the “donkey meat” and I figured the rest of the sentence would contain abject horror.  Nope, I was in the wrong book for that.

Not sausage makings

The story in the book was interesting when it talked about the service requirements and training to open a potential 4 star restaurant.  It is a world I can’t even imagine and probably will never experience based on the menus discussed in the book.  (They did have a vegetable tasting menu that was briefly mentioned.  I just looked it up and it is purely vegetarian.  I was suspicious that they might cook the vegetables in veal stock and the tears of baby unicorns.  If I want to spend $310 a person, I can go try it.)

There isn’t a lot here about intrigue in the restaurant.  It hardly mentions the people cooking.  It is mostly about weeks of training to be able to answer any question a guest may have including all the facts about everything that could be seen out the windows and all about the suppliers of the ingredients of the meals.

I need a break from reading about people who love to eat fish cheeks and bone marrow.  Tomorrow I’m posting a list of food books that won’t crush a poor vegetarian’s soul.

About Phoebe Damrosch

“Phoebe Damrosch is a writer living in Brooklyn. Her first book, Service Included, was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2007.

She has written for the New York Times, Food and Wine, the Daily News, and has been featured in the Financial Times, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, American Way, Eating Well, the New York Post, and Slate.” from her website

02 Mar, 2015

The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison

/ posted in: Reading The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison The Witch with No Name by Kim Harrison
on September 9th 2014
Pages: 480
Narrator: Marguerite Gavin
Length: 17:28
Series: The Hollows
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Urban
Published by HarperCollins
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

All good things must end . . .After ten years and thirteen adventures, at last the triumphant conclusion to Kim Harrison's #1 New York Times bestselling Hollows series!The Witch with No Name In 2004, Kim Harrison made her debut with Dead Witch Walking, an electrifying urban fantasy novel full of action, mystery, romance, and humor, which introduced bounty hunter and witch Rachel Morgan. Over the course of twelve books, Rachel confronted numerous threats, vanquished a range of cunning and powerful enemies, risked her heart, suffered haunting loss, and nearly lost her life. Now, in The Witch with No Name, Kim Harrison brings back her wildly popular heroine for one final, epic battle.Rachel Morgan's come a long way from the klutzy runner fleeing a bad job. She's faced vampires and werewolves, banshees, witches, and soul-eating demons. She's crossed worlds, channeled gods, and accepted her place as a day-walking demon. She's lost friends and lovers and family, and an old enemy has become something much more.But power demands responsibility, and world-changers must always pay a price.That time is now.To save her best friend Ivy's soul and the rest of the living vampires, to keep the demonic ever-after and our own world from utter destruction at the hands of fanatics, Rachel Morgan will risk everything.

Goodreads

Liked

  • I love the world building of this series.  This all happens because genetically – modified tomatoes wiped out most of the humans in the 1960s allowing other species to come out of hiding.
  • It is a great big reunion.  Lots of characters that haven’t been seen since the beginning of the series are brought back.  I love Rachel’s mom.
  • The narration of the series is very good.  I especially like the voices the narrator uses for the pixies.

Didn’t Like

  • Wimpy vampires – I hate vampires that react to stress by sitting down and crying.  Vampires should be tough.  There were a lot of sobbing vampires in this book but the ones that annoyed me most were the living vampires in the beginning.  See also – vampires who react to danger by cowering and screaming.
  • It is a bad sign when the book starts with the near-death of a major character and I’m hoping and praying that she dies because she’s been annoying for the last few books. I shouldn’t be chanting, “Kill her!  Kill her!” in my car.
  • Angst – Rachel feels guilt that she has pulled Trent into her problems and she feels like she is bringing him down.  Do you know how I know this?  Because it is repeated over and over and over and over and then again in case you didn’t get it.  Seriously, at times it was discussed every 15 minutes or so in the audiobook.  I understood it the first twenty five times.  It was starting to seem like she needed to keep saying it to get the word count up.
  • Elves smell like wine and cinnamon.  This was also worked into the books way too many times.  I get it.  Move on.
  • The ending!  They went and hit on one of my personal hot button issues so maybe this is just my thing but I’m going to go off on it on the SPOILERS page.

Overall

Love the series – this book wasn’t great but I really, really, super, duper hate the ending!  Read the series and skip this book.

 

 

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