Showing Posts From: Book Review

I Have the Right To
21 Jun, 2019

I Have the Right To

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading I Have the Right To I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout, Jenn Abelson
on March 6, 2018
Pages: 416
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs, Young Adult
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

A young survivor tells her searing, visceral story of sexual assault, justice, and healing in this gutwrenching memoir.

The numbers are staggering: nearly one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen have been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. This is the true story of one of those girls.

In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul’s School, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in court. Then, in the face of unexpected backlash from her once-trusted school community, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voice.

This memoir is more than an account of a horrific event. It takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators. Chessy’s story offers real, powerful solutions to upend rape culture as we know it today. Prepare to be inspired by this remarkable young woman and her story of survival, advocacy, and hope in the face of unspeakable trauma.

Goodreads

I heard of this story last week in a news article about her rapist seeking a new trial.  In the article it mentioned her by name which is not usual for a sexual assault case and especially one where the person was a minor.  Later in the article it said that she had gone public to bring awareness to her case so I was interested in reading the book.

Don’t pick this one up unless you are in the head space to get good and angry.  At this boarding school it was pretty much considered normal for the girls to be assaulted.  They were taught during orientation that if they needed to discuss anything with an adult that they should always say it was a hypothetical situation.  This was specifically to get the faculty around the mandatory reporting that would be required if they knew that a crime had taken place.  Sexual conquests were tracked publicly.  This was done so openly that a guide to the terminology used was published in the school newspaper. 

Chessy’s assault took place right before graduation weekend when she was a freshman.  She knew she was basically being hunted but he offered to take her to a forbidden location and she wanted to get a good Instagram picture there.  She didn’t think he would do anything to her.  She was 15 and stupid.  She admits this. 

Even after the rape she kept trying to keep up a good front even to the point of not trying to upset her rapist.  It took her a long time to realize that this wasn’t her fault.  The story of how she and her family were ostracized from the community once she went to the police is maddening. 

She pointed out a lot of ways that the system is stacked against survivors.  One that I hadn’t thought of was regarding news coverage.  Her rapist was 18.  He was always described as something like, “Prep school athlete so and so….” with a nice picture while she was “a 15 year old accuser”.  The stories were always about him because she was a minor and a rape victim so they wouldn’t publish her name.  That’s good most of the time but it lead to sympathetic coverage for him.  That’s one of the reasons that she came out publicly.  She was able to put a face to her story.

Another aspect of this story is the reaction of the school.  All of these activities were protected by the school under the guise of “tradition.”  Alumni paid for her rapist’s lawyer to defend the reputation of the school.  How do you make a school a safe place if no one cares?

 

Instant Indian
11 Jun, 2019

Instant Indian

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Instant Indian Instant Indian: Classic Foods from Every Region of India Made Easy in the Instant Pot by Rinku Bhattacharya
on October 2, 2018
Pages: 240
Genres: Cooking
Published by Hippocrene Books
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher


Discover favorite foods from all over India with the first regional Indian cookbook authorized by Instant Pot!

Rinku Bhattacharya -- cookbook author and founder of Spice Chronicles -- has put together a collection of 100 authentic recipes that showcase the diversity and range of the foods of India, where every state and region boasts its own unique dishes. Whether you crave takeout favorites or want to be introduced to lesser-known specialties, this cookbook brings the best of India to your table in an instant!

The Instant Pot(R) lends itself perfectly to Indian recipes, making flavorful, nutritious Indian fare (like simmering-all-day dals, legumes and all manner of curries) in minutes instead of hours.
Instant Indian
features numerous vegetarian and vegan options, and nearly all recipes are gluten-free.

With step-by-step instructions and color photos throughout, Instant Indian makes Indian cooking easy and fool-proof using all the functions of this popular appliance.

Sample recipes:

Chicken Korma Kofta Pulao (Saffron Rice Pilaf with Chicken Meatballs) Goan Pork Ribs Vindaloo No-Knead Naan Kerala Shrimp Curry Parsee Steamed Fish with Coconut-Mint Chutney Cucumber Raita with Homemade (Instant Pot) Yogurt Hakka Noodles Tamatar Masala Anda (Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce)

Goodreads

I received this book and Spices and Seasons by the same author for book tours.  I got Instant Indian first which sort of ruined me for a lot of the recipes in Spices and Seasons.  In my mind all I was thinking was, “Ok, but can you make it in an Instapot?”

I love Indian food but I don’t get to eat it much anymore.  My husband has developed an allergy to some ingredient in Indian food.  From process of elimination I think it might be fenugeek but the only way to test that is to feed it to him and see what happens.  He only broke out in hives from eating Indian food before but since he has another anaphylactic allergy I’m not inclined to push it.  So, I either need to eat Indian food when he isn’t around or cook it myself for solo meals.

I’ve been having fun making different flavors of rice.  I love making rice in the instapot anyway so getting combination of spices to mix in is an easy way to dress up otherwise simple meals.  

Another recipe I want to try is the version of channa masala that is in here.  I love chickpeas and tomatoes and this simple enough to make on a weeknight after work. 

This book contains full color pictures of every dish.  That’s something I want to see in all cookbooks. 

If you aren’t familiar with the different spices or ingredients used in Indian cooking, there are explanations of the purpose of and helpful hints of sourcing things that you might not already have in your pantry. 

This is a great book for anyone wanting to start making simple Indian dishes at home.

 

With The Fire on High
04 Jun, 2019

With The Fire on High

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading With The Fire on High With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
on May 7, 2019
Pages: 400
Genres: Young Adult
Published by HarperTeen
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Setting: Pennsylvania

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Goodreads

This is the follow up to Elizabeth Acevedo’s extraordinary debut, The Poet X.  I was thrilled to see that this book was coming out and extra excited to see that the story was about food.

Emoni is a senior in high school who loves to cook.  She wants to go to culinary school, which wouldn’t normally be a problem except that Emoni got pregnant as a freshman and now has a daughter to raise.  That limits her choices because she needs to work to support herself and her daughter. When she gets a chance to be in a culinary program at school she has to decide if she is able to fit it into her life.

Emoni is a character who I haven’t read often.  Usually stories with teen mothers tell the story of the pregnancy.  This is several years later when she is trying to juggle school, work, and a child.  It doesn’t make any of these seem easy or glamorous.  She has problems with the father of the child and his parents. She works when her classmates only have school to worry about. She knows that classmates make assumptions about anyone who found herself in her situation.  She’s pushing through and ignoring what anyone else thinks.

Emoni was raised by her abuela after her mother died and her father moved back to Puerto Rico.  I loved Abuela.  She is a woman who keeps getting pulled back into child rearing when she is ready to live an independent life.  First her son all but abandoned his daughter on her doorstep and then when she gets her granddaughter mostly raised, her granddaughter gets pregnant and now Abuela needs to help raise her great-grandchild.  I found her very realistic.  She’s doing what she has to do to make her family work but she’s starting to spread her own wings too as Emoni gets ready to graduate. 

Even if YA isn’t normally your cup of tea, I’d encourage you to pick up Elizabeth Acevedo’s books.  They are powerful. 

Resistance Women
28 May, 2019

Resistance Women

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Resistance Women Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini
on May 14, 2019
Pages: 608
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Germany

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, an enthralling historical saga that recreates the danger, romance, and sacrifice of an era and brings to life one courageous, passionate American—Mildred Fish Harnack—and her circle of women friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin.

After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.

As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.

For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.

Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.

Goodreads

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


This book chronicles the lives of different women living in Germany who find their lives and liberties slowly constricted as the Nazis seize control. They include an American expatriate married to a German man, the daughter of the American ambassador, a German woman trying to finish her doctorate, and a Jewish woman from a prominent family.

The author does a great job showing how people adapted to worse and worse conditions. It shows how people were squeezed out of their jobs. It reviews how the Nazis lied over and over to make people believe their propaganda.  This book could be hard to read and a few times I had to put it down to process it.  It could then be hard to pick back up because you knew that it was just going to get worse for the characters.

I’ve read almost all of Jennifer Chiaverini’s books to date but this is the first one that has strongly emotionally affected me. Reading this historical fiction account of the rise of the Nazi party and the descent of Germany into totalitarianism constantly reminds the reader of recent events in the US.   I hope that this book opens the eyes of people who may not be aware of the parallels between the history and current events. I think that is the wonderful power of historical fiction. It can draw in readers who may not be interested in reading a history book.  I was disappointed to read other reviews who are downgrading this book because they feel that she draws too many parallels between Trump and Hitler.  I’m writing this prior to reading the author’s note but I don’t feel that the text of the actual story does this at all.  She points out things that happened in Germany.  If your brain lights up because it sounds really familiar then maybe that should be a wake up call and not a reason to decide that she added things to try to make unwarranted comparisons.


About Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of several acclaimed historical novels and the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin.

Find out more about Jennifer at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Spices and Seasons
23 May, 2019

Spices and Seasons

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Spices and Seasons Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors by Rinku Bhattacharya, Suvir Saran
on May 1, 2014
Pages: 373
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Hippocrene Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves--Indian cooking and sustainable living--to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You'll find recipes for tempting fare like "Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps," "Roasted Red Pepper Chutney," "Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub," "Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree," and "Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens," to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.

Goodreads

 

This book is more than merely a collection of recipes.  It is a beautiful reference book for anyone interested in Indian cuisine. 

Types of commonly used spices are discussed.  Learn about the types of vegetables and beans that are valued in Indian cooking.  Find out the differences and similarities between regional cuisines.  Chapters are devoted to appetizers, soups, pastas/rice, vegetables, and meats.  Usually in a book that isn’t strictly vegetarian I feel lucky to find one or two recipes that I would be interested in making.  This book has many that I plan to make.  That almost never happens. 

The book is wonderfully illustrated with full color pictures of each dish.  I appreciate that in a cookbook.  It would be particularly useful if you aren’t familiar enough with Indian cuisine to know what each dish is supposed to look like. 

I was inspired by this book to add some spices especially for Indian cooking to my garden this year.  I have a pot full of mint and am waiting for my cilantro to sprout.  The author uses these herbs most in her cooking.  I look forward to making many of the recipes in here with fresh vegetables from my garden. 

 

Westside
13 May, 2019

Westside

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Westside Westside by W.M. Akers
on May 7, 2019
Pages: 304
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Historical
Published by Harper Voyager
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: New York

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.

It is a hellish landscape, and Gilda Carr proudly calls it home.

Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night; the small riddles that destroy us; the questions that spoil marriages, ruin friendships, and curdle joy. Those tiny cases distract her from her grief, and the one impossible question she knows she can’t answer: “How did my father die?”

Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it before her irascible merchant husband learns it is gone. When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.

All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. She doesn’t want to know why this merchant was on the wrong side of town—or why he was murdered in cold blood. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.

Introducing a truly remarkable female detective, Westside is a mystery steeped in the supernatural and shot through with gunfights, rotgut whiskey, and sizzling Dixieland jazz. Full of dazzling color, delightful twists, and truly thrilling action, it announces the arrival of a remarkable talent.

Goodreads

 

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I was pulled in by the world building of this book from the first page.  The Westside of Manhattan has fallen under some type of spell or curse or something.  No one is sure what it is but people are disappearing.  A wall is built to keep the darkness out of the east.  The west is left to be reclaimed by nature and the darkness.

Gilda is a detective who only works on tiny mysteries.  She watched her father get obsessed by the big mystery of what was happening to the Westside and she isn’t going to let that happen to her.  She’s on the hunt for a missing glove when her whole world starts to unravel – literally and figuratively.  Now she is going to have to figure out what is happening to her city before everything is taken from her.

I loved the city and the factions that run the different parts of the Westside.  I would have totally moved to the Upper West.  It was much nicer there.  I liked the idea of little mysteries that are annoying enough to need solved.  I liked the characters who aren’t always what they seemed.

I wasn’t completely enamored of the big mystery though.  That was a disappointment for me since I loved all the components.  I wish it would have stayed with the small things.


Photo by W. M. Akers

About W.M. Akers

W. M. Akers is an award-winning playwright,†Narratively†editor, and the creator of the bestselling game†Deadball: Baseball With Dice.†Westside†is his debut novel. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more about his work at wmakers.net.

The Pale-Faced Lie
07 May, 2019

The Pale-Faced Lie

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Pale-Faced Lie The Pale-Faced Lie by David Crow
on May 7, 2019
Pages: 352
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Sandra Jonas Publishing
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: United States

Growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation, David Crow and his siblings idolized their dad. Tall, strong, smart, and brave, the self-taught Cherokee regaled his family with stories of his World War II feats. But as time passed, David discovered the other side of Thurston Crow, the ex-con with his own code of ethics that justified cruelty, violence, lies—even murder.

A shrewd con artist with a genius IQ, Thurston intimidated David with beatings to coerce him into doing his criminal bidding. David's mom, too mentally ill to care for her children, couldn't protect him. One day, Thurston packed up the house and took the kids, leaving her nothing. Soon he remarried, and David learned that his stepmother was just as vicious and abusive as his father.

Through sheer determination, and with the help of a few angels along the way, David managed to get into college and achieve professional success. When he finally found the courage to stop helping his father with his criminal activities, he unwittingly triggered a plot of revenge that would force him into a showdown with Thurston Crow.

With lives at stake, including his own, David would have only twenty-four hours to outsmart his father—the brilliant, psychotic man who bragged that the three years he spent in the notorious San Quentin State Prison had been the easiest time of his life.

The Pale-Faced Lie is a searing, raw, palpable memoir that reminds us what an important role our parents play in our lives. Most of all, it's an inspirational story about the power of forgiveness and the ability of the human spirit to rise above adversity, no matter the cost.

Goodreads

David Crow survived a chaotic childhood led by parents who definitely did not have their children’s best interests at heart.  His father was an ex-con who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  On the side he stole items from the Bureau to sell.  He was also involved in many other illegal activities including murder.  His mother was mentally ill and tormented by his father.  His father went to extremes of gaslighting her and getting the children to terrorize her.  They went along with it because they were so scared of him. 

Besides the cruelty at home, David was brutalized at school and in his neighborhood on the Navajo reservation.  The book recounts the horrific poverty and the effects of alcoholism on the community.  It isn’t a sympathetic recounting.  He was a child who considered the Navajo men as people to be humiliated and scorned and hurt if possible.  He was lashing out at people who were in a worse position than he was. 

His father was very threatened by the success of his children.  Some people might read that as strange but I know people like that.  They are very resentful of their children being more successful than them.  These families have generations of abuse in common.  The parents go on and on about how they could have been as successful as their children if they had the idyllic childhood they gave their kids instead of the poor and abusive childhood they had – even when they were also highly abusive to their children.  I don’t understand why the children of these families stay in contact as adults.  That played out here.  He tried to make normal relations with both his mother and father. 

The showdown that was discussed in the blurb was a bit of a let down.  I was anticipating a thriller-ready battle of wits that ended with one person left standing.  It really wasn’t that at all. 

I was intrigued by the beginning of the book but felt like the description of his childhood went on too long.  He didn’t give his transformation to a successful adult enough coverage.  How did he go from a dyslexic kid with poor eyesight who didn’t really pass his classes to being successful in college?  Was the dyslexia ever treated?  How did he manage to have the basic knowledge needed for his classes?  It isn’t ever fully discussed.  He just did fine in college. 

This is an uncomfortable book because everyone does horrible things in it.  If it was fiction, it would be considered too unbelievable. I wish it would have focused more on how he worked to break the cycle of abuse and self-centeredness endemic in his family and how that led him to do the charitable works listed in his author bio.  This isn’t discussed in the book at all.


To read reviews, please visit David Crow’s page on iRead Book Tours. 

Buy the Book:

 

 

 

 
Meet the Author: ​ 

​David Crow spent his early years on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Through grit, resilience, and a thirst for learning, he managed to escape his abusive childhood, graduate from college, and build a successful lobbyist business in Washington. Today, David is a sought-after speaker, giving talks to various businesses and trade organizations around the world.

Throughout the years, he has mentored over 200 college interns, performed pro bono service for the charitable organization Save the Children, and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. An advocate for women, he will donate 10 percent of his book royalties to Barrett House, a homeless shelter for women in Albuquerque. David and his wife, Patty, live in the suburbs of DC.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ LinkedIn

Enter the Giveaway!
Ends May 25, 2019

 


 

A Modest Independence
03 May, 2019

A Modest Independence

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading A Modest Independence A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews
on April 23, 2019
Pages: 400
Series: Parish Orphans of Devon,
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Published by Perfectly Proper Press
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England, India
Also in this series: The Matrimonial Advertisement


He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.


She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…

Goodreads

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | ITUNES | KOBO

I loved the first book in this series that is centered around four men who lived in the same brutal orphanage as children.  One went into the Army.  One became a lawyer.  One is living with the effects of a debilitating head injury.  The last one disappeared.  Book one was about the soldier.  This book is about the lawyer.

The book heavily references events in book one.  I am horrible at remembering what happened in romance novels but it started to come back to me.  I think if you read this book without reading the first one you could understand this story but would be lost at some of the events in the larger story.

Jenny was the distant relative-companion to the heroine in book 1.  She is given a sum of money to live on.  Control of it is held by Thomas Finchley the lawyer because of course it is.  Can’t have ladies running around with their own money.  She plans to go to India for an adventure and to see if she can find out what really happened to her cousin in a battle there.  She and Thomas had met before and had a bit of flirting.  Now he decides that he really likes her and so he is going to accompany her to India.  Yeah, he decides this and doesn’t tell her. 

This is a bit of a pattern in this book. She clearly expresses her wishes and then he runs right over them because he feels that he knows better and he wants to help her.  She calls him out on it.  The book is about him trying to learn how to deal with a woman who wants adventure and romance but doesn’t want marriage because of the restrictions that it will place on her in that time and place.  

I thought this was a believable conflict between the protagonists.  They fall in love with each other but want very different lives.  How much should each person give up?  Will it lead to resentment over time?

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. 


About the Author

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews (A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and BeautyThe Matrimonial Advertisement) writes both historical non-fiction and traditional historical romances set in Victorian England. Her articles on nineteenth century history have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at BUST Magazine. In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

For more information, please visit Mimi Matthews’ website and blog. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitterBookBubPinterestGoogle+, and Goodreads.

Blog Tour Schedule Through Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Wednesday, May 1
Review & Interview at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 2
Interview at Bookish Rantings

Friday, May 3
Review at Based on a True Story

Saturday, May 4
Feature at What Is That Book About

Sunday, May 5
Feature at Comet Readings

Monday, May 6
Review at Pursuing Stacie

Tuesday, May 7
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, May 8
Excerpt at Myths, Legends, Books & Coffee Pots

Thursday, May 9
Review & Excerpt at The Book Junkie Reads

Friday, May 10
Review at Amy’s Booket List
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Feature at View from the Birdhouse

Bringing Columbia Home
25 Apr, 2019

Bringing Columbia Home

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Bringing Columbia Home Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew by Michael D. Leinbach, Jonathan H. Ward
on January 2, 2018
Genres: Historical, Nonfiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: United States

Mike Leinbach was the launch director of the space shuttle program when Columbia disintegrated on reentry before a nation’s eyes on February 1, 2003. And it would be Mike Leinbach who would be a key leader in the search and recovery effort as NASA, FEMA, the FBI, the US Forest Service, and dozens more federal, state, and local agencies combed an area of rural east Texas the size of Rhode Island for every piece of the shuttle and her crew they could find. Assisted by hundreds of volunteers, it would become the largest ground search operation in US history.

For the first time, here is the definitive inside story of the Columbia disaster and recovery and the inspiring message it ultimately holds. In the aftermath of tragedy, people and communities came together to help bring home the remains of the crew and nearly 40 percent of shuttle, an effort that was instrumental in piecing together what happened so the shuttle program could return to flight and complete the International Space Station. Bringing Columbia Home shares the deeply personal stories that emerged as NASA employees looked for lost colleagues and searchers overcame immense physical, logistical, and emotional challenges and worked together to accomplish the impossible.

Featuring a foreword and epilogue by astronauts Robert Crippen and Eileen Collins, this is an incredible narrative about best of humanity in the darkest of times and about how a failure at the pinnacle of human achievement became a story of cooperation and hope.

Goodreads

I clearly remember aimlessly watching the news that included in passing a brief mention of the landing of Columbia.  There was a pause and then the notification that they had lost contact with the shuttle.  I remember my then husband coming out of the bedroom and telling him about it.  What I don’t remember is any stories about the aftermath.  The Iraq War started and drowned out the findings. 

I found this book for sale on BookBub and decided to give it a try.  It was wonderfully done. It was informative while being extremely respectful of the astronauts who died that day.  It communicates the deep grief everyone at NASA felt for the loss of the crew and also for the loss of the shuttle.  Columbia was over 20 years old. Many of the people who maintained her had been with her for their entire careers.

The author was in charge of the launch.  The book covers that and the immediate concern that something was seen falling and hitting the shuttle.  It doesn’t shy away from talking about how safety concerns were dismissed during the mission.  He was on hand when Columbia was supposed to land.  He describes what it was like to wait for the shuttle to appear in the sky and the gradual realization that it wasn’t coming.

“Our emergency plans assumed that a landing problem would happen within sight of the runway, where a failed landing attempt would be immediately obvious to everyone. Today, there was nothing to see, nothing to hear. We had no idea what to do.”

 

Columbia broke up over rural east Texas.  They were in no way prepared for a disaster of this magnitude.  No one was.  It took a while for people there to figure out what was happening when debris started falling from the sky.  The communities rallied though to host and feed the hoards of recovery workers who came in, to walk through brush and briars looking for the crew and debris, and to mislead the press about where the astronauts were being found.  Even two carpenters who were in the town jail got put to work building cubicles for the recovery team.  I hope they got time off their sentences for community service.

The book tells the story of the many people who came to help in Texas and then switches to sections on laying out the debris to determine the cause of the accident and what that meant for the space program as a whole.  

There was a lot of discussion about what the crew knew.  There was video of them happy in the cabin that stops about a minute and half before the accident.  I personally wouldn’t want my loved one to know that they were about to die.  A lot of NASA people felt that it was better if they did know there was a problem and they were attempting to fix it because that would mean that they weren’t helpless passengers.  I don’t see how that would be comforting for anyone to think about. 

Even if you aren’t into the space program, this is an interesting book about accident recovery and investigation and the toll it takes on people involved. It brings up a lot of issues I never considered like what do you do with a destroyed space shuttle.  I didn’t know that Challenger was sealed in a silo.  Columbia is available for researchers. NASA personnel are instructed to visit her to remember the responsibility they have to the crews that fly.

It is sobering and sad but also funny in parts and ultimately uplifting.

Mercy for Animals
18 Apr, 2019

Mercy for Animals

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Mercy for Animals Mercy for Animals: One Man's Quest to Inspire Compassion and Improve the Lives of Farm Animals by Nathan Runkle, Gene Stone
on September 12, 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Avery Publishing Group
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned

A compelling look at animal welfare and factory farming in the United States from Mercy For Animals, the leading international force in preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

Nathan Runkle would have been a fifth-generation farmer in his small midwestern town. Instead, he founded our nation's leading nonprofit organization for protecting factory farmed animals. In Mercy For Animals, Nathan brings us into the trenches of his organization's work; from MFA's early days in grassroots activism, to dangerous and dramatic experiences doing undercover investigations, to the organization's current large-scale efforts at making sweeping legislative change to protect factory farmed animals and encourage compassionate food choices.

But this isn't just Nathan's story. Mercy For Animals examines how our country moved from a network of small, local farms with more than 50 percent of Americans involved in agriculture to a massive coast-to-coast industrial complex controlled by a mere 1 percent of our population--and the consequences of this drastic change on animals as well as our global and local environments. We also learn how MFA strives to protect farmed animals in behind-the-scenes negotiations with companies like Nestle and other brand names--conglomerates whose policy changes can save countless lives and strengthen our planet. Alongside this unflinching snapshot of our current food system, readers are also offered hope and solutions--big and small--for ending mistreatment of factory farmed animals. From simple diet modifications to a clear explanation of how to contact corporations and legislators efficiently, Mercy For Animals proves that you don't have to be a hardcore vegan or an animal-rights activist to make a powerful difference in the lives of animals.

Goodreads

I’ve had this book on my Audible wishlist for a while but hadn’t gotten around to it.  I’m glad I finally started to listen to it.  I was surprised when it opened with a story of a stealth rescue of chickens from Buckeye Egg Farm in Croton Ohio.  At the time of the story I was living in the area and driving past there a lot.  The place was hugely hated because of its affects on the people living around it.  There would be hoards of flies every summer.  The smell was awful and all the groundwater was contaminated from the feces.  

Mercy for Animals was started by Nathan Runkle as a teenager and has grown into a huge voice in the animal welfare community.  They have sponsored a lot of undercover investigations into abuses at factory farms.  The undercover investigators are tough.  I couldn’t work in slaughterhouses or factory farms for months on end to document abuses.  Sadly, it is getting harder to do this kind of work because of agriculture protection laws that punish investigators more than the people perpetrating the abuse.  

This was a tough book to listen to because of the abuse that it details.  I took a few breaks from it to listen to other books for a day or two.  

The last section of the book discusses how technology might help solve the problems.  Companies that make plant-based meat substitutes like Beyond Beef are profiled in addition to companies making meat out of animal stem cells.  This will allow people to eat meat with any animals being slaughtered.  It was nice that this book ended on an uplifting note after all the horrors that came before.  

Romance Mini Reviews
02 Apr, 2019

Romance Mini Reviews

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Romance Mini Reviews Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder
on November 3, 2018
Pages: 72
Genres: Fiction, Romance
Published by Avon Impulse
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: United States

He’s the bad-boy biker. She’s the good girl working in her family’s Indian restaurant. On the surface, nothing about Trucker Carrigan and Pinky Grover’s instant, incendiary, attraction makes sense. But when they peel away the layers and the assumptions—and their clothes—everything falls into place. The need. The want. The light. The laughter. They have more in common than they ever could’ve guessed. Is it enough? They won’t know until they take a chance on each other—and on love.

Goodreads

I’d heard good things about this novella on Twitter and it seemed to be perfect for Foodies Read so I had to pick it up.

Pinky got out of her small hometown but had to return to help out in the family restaurant when her mom got sick.  She’s frustrated at the turn her life has taken.  Trucker is the leader of a local biker gang that regularly comes into the restaurant.  They are attracted to each other but know that they have absolutely nothing in common.  Pinky doesn’t want anything to do with the trouble that accompanies the gang.  But a few encounters outside the restaurant lead Pinky to believe that they more have more in common than she thought.

I liked this story even though it had way more sex in it than I generally like in my romances.  The author managed to bring in some good character development in such a short space.


Romance Mini Reviews Can't Escape Love (Reluctant Royals, #3.5) by Alyssa Cole
on March 19, 2019
Pages: 128
Published by Avon Impulse

Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She's finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.

Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?

Goodreads


This novella takes place at the same time as A Duke in Disguise, which features Reggie’s sister.  You don’t really need to have read that book in order to understand this novella but it does reference the events in the novel.

I love this whole series so I liked reading Reggie’s story.  No one is royal in this one.  Reggie is considered to be “the good twin” by her parents especially since she had a brain infection that left her disabled.  She is tired of hearing how proud her parents are of her for managing to do the most basic of things while at the same time they nag her sister for not meeting their standards.  She’s stopped working for their company and has built a successful online business but they don’t understand what she does.

Gus is autistic.  He used his livestream to try to find other people as interested in puzzles as he is and to practice speaking.  Reggie was his only follower.  He quit after a while and then deleted his archives.  He didn’t know that Reggie still listened to his soothing voice to fall asleep.

Both characters are a bit prickly because they are used to being misunderstood.  Despite the slightly contrived circumstances of their meeting, I really liked this story.


Romance Mini Reviews Trouble the Water by Jacqueline Friedland
on May 8, 2018
Setting: South Carolina

Abigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby’s parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave—and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head.

Abby’s attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can’t help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston’s aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.

Goodreads


I really enjoyed this book too.  This is the story of a British man living in South Carolina who is suspected of having anti-slavery views.  His home is burned because of this and his wife and child die in the fire. 

Three years later, an old friend from England who has fallen on hard times asks him to take in one of his daughters.  She is uncomfortable with this change in her circumstances but realizes that there is more going on with her new guardian than she suspected. 

This delves more deeply into the time and events than the romance.  It is straddling the line between historical fiction and romance. 

How to Know the Birds
29 Mar, 2019

How to Know the Birds

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading How to Know the Birds How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding by Ted Floyd
on March 12, 2019
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by National Geographic Society
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching.

How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd's charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.

Goodreads

This winter I finally got birds to come to my bird feeders after years of trying.  I was excited to see this book on a book tour. I’m not good at identifying any species other than the ones children would know.  

I was surprised to see that this book isn’t a field guide like I assumed it would be.  Instead, this book teaches you through a series of essays how to be a birder.  

It starts with a description of a day hike the author and his son take to watch birds.  He explains how birding has changed over the years.  While it may annoy traditionalists, today’s bird watcher generally considers uploading photos and song recording to social media and apps like EBird to be essential parts of the experience.  I think that this is a logical extension of the practice of journaling what birds you see that has been practiced forever.  (I put the book down to download the apps he discussed to help identify birds and to log where and when they were seen.  Technology helps.  There are apps that let you upload pictures and help you identify what you are seeing.) 

The next part of the book teaches you what to look for when you are seeing birds.  It starts with birds that are likely familiar to anyone in the U.S. – robins, cardinals, etc.  There is a one-page essay on each that illustrates a concept in birding such as variations in plumage due to season, age, or sex.  As you move through each of the essays you learn about the science and ecology around bird life.  You see how birders think and how they approach the hobby.  

This is a book that should be savored over time more than read straight through like a novel.  It is formatted to take place over a year.  The simpler lessons are in the beginning of the book/year and get more complex as they go on and the reader has more practice identifying birds.  This book would be best for a beginner birder but experienced birders may enjoy the stories that go along with the descriptions of the birds. 

Internment
27 Mar, 2019

Internment

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Internment Internment by Samira Ahmed
on March 19, 2019
Pages: 386
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Atom
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: United States

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Goodreads

I was really looking forward to reading this book.  I preordered it as soon as I heard about it.  I was interested in a book about Muslim internment from a Muslim author.

The book starts out well.  She captures the fear and suspicion rampant in the main characters community.  She makes a logical case for how the United States would start to round up Muslims.  The early scene where the family is taken out of their house is very realistic and because of that it is very scary.

After they get to the internment camp though, the whole story starts to fall apart.  I think a lot of the problem in my reading of this is that this is a YA book that is trying to celebrate the power of young people to make a difference.  I understand that because of the category it is going to be focused more on action than character development but these characters are particularly weak.   The main character:

  • Has a boyfriend who she loves so very, very much that she can’t think about anything else
  • Except when she is super angry and has ALL THE FEELINGS and is angry at everyone
  • Somehow she is only one in the camp who comes up with ideas to do something

YA books can tell stories of teenage bravery well.  The Hunger Games comes to mind.  This one just doesn’t ever come together.

It really annoyed me that this book painted all the Muslim adults as passive and weak and unwilling to protest.  They were just sitting around waiting to be rallied to action by a teenager?  (I decided to read that as the self-centeredness of a child who couldn’t see what was going on around her.  I’m sure that is not the reading that the author meant but it kept me from hissing at the page when I was reading.)

The villain of the story is an absolute joke.  He reads like a cartoon character.  He is the director of the camp and he stomps around and threatens people until his face turns colors.  Apparently just the sight of the main character makes him sputter and rage and be unable to form coherent thoughts.  In reality the director of a camp like this would more likely be a stone-cold sadist and/or a very efficient bureaucrat who wouldn’t be the least bit flustered by a whiny teenager.

***SPOILERS *** For all his rage every time he sees her he never really does anything about her.  The nastiest he gets is hitting her.  He hides her parents from her for a bit but he gives them back almost immediately when he is confronted.  Also there is almost unlimited surveillance but he never seems to notice any of the guards helping her all the time?  It is explained by the fact that he trusts the guards.  Yeah, not buying it.

I did like the fact that people protesting outside the camp and acting as observers of what was going on inside the camp was a big part of the story.  I think that in these scenarios that will be a major part of the resistance.  I did like some of the resistance ideas from inside the camp, like fasting to protest in front of visitors as well.

Overall, I think this was a wasted opportunity to tell a really important story.  If you want to read a book on a similar subject that I think did a great job with the storyline, pick up Ink. 

InkInk by Sabrina Vourvoulias
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was scarily prescient when it was published a few years ago.  It was just rereleased because events in the U.S. seem to be moving along just like she predicted. 

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure
26 Mar, 2019

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure (The Worth Saga) by Courtney Milan
on March 26, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Setting: England

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew.

Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of nine and sixty, crashes into her life. The Terrible Nephew is living in her rooming house, and Violetta wants him gone.

Mrs. Martin isn’t about to start giving damns, not even for someone as intriguing as Miss Violetta. But she hatches another plan—to make her nephew sorry, to make Miss Violetta smile, and to have the finest adventure of all time.

If she makes Terrible Men angry and wins the hand of a lovely lady in the process? Those are just added bonuses.

Author’s Note: Sometimes I write villains who are subtle and nuanced. This is not one of those times. The Terrible Nephew is terrible, and terrible things happen to him. Sometime villains really are bad and wrong, and sometimes, we want them to suffer a lot of consequences.

Goodreads

Any Courtney Milan book is going to be a delight but I was especially excited to hear that this novella was going to feature older women.  I’m a huge fan of stories that feature older heroines.  Why should we stop getting stories when we are over 30?

Miss Violetta Beauchamps has been fired by her employer just prior to being able to collect her pension.  He used her inability to collect rent from a boarder as an excuse even though he told her not to try because the boarder had a surety signed by his wealthy aunt.  Violetta needs money to live on so she decides to go collect the rent from the aunt herself.  She isn’t going to give it to her ex-employer.  It is going to fund her modest lifestyle through her old age.  It is just a little lie.

Mrs. Bertrice Martin was not what she was expecting.  She hates her Terrible Nephew.  She won’t even utter his name.  She isn’t going to pay his debts – not when he couldn’t even bother to spell her name right on the surety he forged.  She will pay Miss Beauchamps to help her make the Terrible Nephew’s life miserable though.

There is a time for well characterized, morally ambiguous villains and there is a time for just letting the world burn to annoy a horrible person.  This story is the latter and it is a glorious romp.  Bertrice knows that everything wrong in the world is the fault of men.  Even if she can’t really do anything systemically about it, she isn’t going to make it easy for them.  Sometimes you just need to hire a group of off-key carolers to follow a fellow around all day to make yourself feel better.

Bertrice appears to hold all the power with her wealth but it doesn’t make her safe.  Men still have all the legal power and her nephew can get her declared insane.  Her recent antics might just make his case for him.  Violetta can’t fight back against her unfair firing in a society that doesn’t give women any legal rights. 

I highlighted so many amazing bits of dialogue. 

“Fear at seventy years of age was different than fear at seventeen. At seventeen, Bertrice had been walking down the so-called correct path, trying not to stray with all her might. Her fears had not been her own; they had been gifts from her elders. They won’t think you’re proper if you do that. You might never find a match. Do you want to live in a garret alone for the rest of your life?

 

This might be my favorite.

“My husband, God rot his soul, used to bring prostitutes home all the time. After he’d finished with them, I’d serve them tea and double whatever he was paying them.”

“But why would you do that?”

“Why not? It’s good sense to be kind to people who are doing work for you.” Bertrice didn’t think that was so strange a proposition. “It was hard work fucking my husband. Trust me, I should know. I certainly didn’t want to do it.”

 

Bertrice respects the neighborhood prostitutes all through the story.  (I really want to read a story about Molly, the lace-worker turned prostitute turned philanthropist.)

This story is an absolute delight for anyone who has ever wanted to rage against the privilege given to men in society just for being born.  It is cathartic and will bring a smile to your face long after you finish reading.

 

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

North
19 Mar, 2019

North

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading North North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek, Jenny Jurek
on April 10, 2018
Pages: 292
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library

From the author of the bestseller Eat and Run, a thrilling new memoir about his grueling, exhilarating, and immensely inspiring 46-day run to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

Scott Jurek is one of the world's best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he's finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning's elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him.

When he set out in the spring of 2015, Jurek anticipated punishing terrain, forbidding weather, and inevitable injuries. He would have to run nearly 50 miles a day, every day, for almost seven weeks. He knew he would be pushing himself to the limit, that comfort and rest would be in short supply -- but he couldn't have imagined the physical and emotional toll the trip would exact, nor the rewards it would offer.

With his wife, Jenny, friends, and the kindness of strangers supporting him, Jurek ran, hiked, and stumbled his way north, one white blaze at a time. A stunning narrative of perseverance and personal transformation, North is a portrait of a man stripped bare on the most demanding and transcendent effort of his life. It will inspire runners and non-runners alike to keep striving for their personal best.

Goodreads

I’ve been interested in Scott Jurek’s career because he is known for doing ultraendurance events as a vegan.  A lot of people were of the opinion that it couldn’t be done when he started.  I’ve read his other book and enjoyed it so when I saw this one I was excited to read it.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints – Scott’s experience on the trail and Jenny’s experience heading up the support crew.  They were at a crossroads in their lives and envisioned the run as a personal adventure.  They underestimated the amount of help that they would require for it to happen. 

People show up to run sections with Scott.  Friends come from all over to coach Scott through hard sections.  Some of them have held the record previously.  Others are planning their own attempts to break the record.

The run is brutal.  I don’t know why anyone would want to run 30-50 miles a day or more for 46 days in a row.  I really don’t know why they’d want to keep doing it when they are injured or when it won’t stop raining or when they are too far behind pace to be able to stop and sleep.  Ultrarunning is definitely not for me but I do enjoy reading about it.

The epilogue talks about the next year when Scott goes back to the trail to be on the support crew for one of his friends who crewed for him.  There is a documentary on U.S. Netflix now called Broken.  It is about that attempt to break Scott’s speed record.  The film isn’t that great on its own but a lot of the same people crew (expect for Jenny Jurek) so you get to see the people you read about in the Jureks’ book.  You can also see sections of the trail to understand exactly how challenging it is. 

I am linking this review up with the Year of the Asian reading challenge.

 

You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right
08 Mar, 2019

You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right You Can't Go Wrong Doing Right: How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World by Robert J. Brown
on January 15, 2019
Pages: 256
Genres: Civil Rights, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Convergent Books
Format: eBook
Source: Library

An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an impressive array of the famous and powerful, including every American president since John F. Kennedy. But as a child born into poverty in the 1930s, Robert was raised by his grandmother to think differently about success. For example, "The best way to influence others is to be helpful," she told him. And, "You can't go wrong by doing right."

Fueled by these lessons on humble, principled service, Brown went on to play a pivotal, mostly unseen role alongside the great and the powerful of our time: trailing the mob in 1950s Harlem with a young Robert F. Kennedy; helping the white corporate leadership at Woolworth integrate their lunch counters; channeling money from American businesses to the Civil Rights movement; accompanying Coretta Scott King, at her request, to Memphis the day after her husband had been shot; advising Richard Nixon on how to support black entrepreneurship; becoming the only person allowed to visit Nelson Mandela in Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town.

Full of unbelievable moments and reminders that the path to influence runs through a life of generosity, YOU CAN'T GO WRONG DOING RIGHT blends a heartwarming, historically fascinating account with memorable lessons that will speak to the dreamer in all of us.

Goodreads

My first thought reading this book was, “Why have I never heard of this man?”  My second was, “This is like real-life Forrest Gump.”  The man popped up at many of the major events of the 20th century in two countries.

When I finished I had to take a minute to review how this had happened.

  1. He was born in poverty in the south but was able to get an education over time.
  2. He took the police test for research but ended up scoring really high.  He became one of the first black officers in his area.
  3. He started doing undercover drug work which led to him getting hired by the FBI to do that kind of work in New York City.
  4. That got dicey so he quit to go back to North Carolina to start a public relations firm.  That was rough going.
  5. When students were protesting in Woolworth’s because of segregation at the lunch counters, he went to Woolworth’s and told them that he could negotiate a settlement.
  6. He became a fixer for companies that had racial issues.
  7. This led to him meeting and getting to know all the big civil rights leaders in the 1960s and helping them with corporate funding from the clients he had.
  8. He decided getting stuff done from the inside was more effective so he went to work for the Republicans in the Nixon White House to increase business funding to black people.
  9. Along the way he hired Stedman Graham who introduced him to his girlfriend Oprah Winfrey who was getting into television.
  10. He paid for the Mandela children to come to the U.S. for college.
  11. He ended up talking to the President of South Africa about whether or not to release Nelson Mandela.

I probably forgot some stuff in the middle.  It was a wild ride.

It was interesting perspective to read about.  At many points he was considered to be working for “the wrong side” by the black community.  He worked for companies being protested against.  He worked for Republicans.  But he was able to work behind the scenes to potentially make more actual progress that he might have been able to in more traditional civil right roles.


This is a long video but you can listen for a bit to hear him tell his story.

The Class
06 Mar, 2019

The Class

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Class The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America by Heather Won Tesoriero
on September 4, 2018
Pages: 448
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Ballantine Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

An unforgettable year in the life of a visionary high school science teacher and his award-winning students, as they try to get into college, land a date for the prom . . . and possibly change the world.

Andy Bramante left his successful career as a corporate scientist to teach public high school--and now helms one of the most remarkable classrooms in America. Bramante's unconventional class at Connecticut's prestigious yet diverse Greenwich High School has no curriculum, tests, textbooks, or lectures, and is equal parts elite research lab, student counseling office, and teenage hangout spot. United by a passion to learn, Mr. B.'s band of whiz kids set out every year to conquer the brutally competitive science fair circuit. They have won the top prize at the Google Science Fair, made discoveries that eluded scientists three times their age, and been invited to the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.

A former Emmy-winning producer for CBS News, Heather Won Tesoriero embeds in this dynamic class to bring Andy and his gifted, all-too-human kids to life--including William, a prodigy so driven that he's trying to invent diagnostics for artery blockage and Alzheimer's (but can't quite figure out how to order a bagel); Ethan, who essentially outgrows high school in his junior year and founds his own company to commercialize a discovery he made in the class; Sophia, a Lyme disease patient whose ambitious work is dedicated to curing her own debilitating ailment; Romano, a football player who hangs up his helmet to pursue his secret science expertise and develop a "smart" liquid bandage; and Olivia, whose invention of a fast test for Ebola brought her science fair fame and an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

We experience the thrill of discovery, the heartbreak of failed endeavors, and perhaps the ultimate high: a yes from Harvard. Moving, funny, and utterly engrossing, The Class is a superb account of hard work and high spirits, a stirring tribute to how essential science is in our schools and our lives, and a heartfelt testament to the power of a great teacher to help kids realize their unlimited potential.

Goodreads

Descriptions of this class made me a bit twitchy. Basically, anything goes. The kids do self-directed projects, maybe. If they don’t get started working on anything, ok. If they start working on something and then wander off and ignore their project for months on end, ok. If they ignore their project and then have to work nights and weekends to get it done on time, then the teacher has the lab open for them to do that. I would not be a very understanding teacher if these kids were wanting me to give up my personal time because they couldn’t be bothered to do their work in a timely manner in class. Your lack of preparation is not my emergency, etc.

I didn’t realize that science fairs were this big of a business. There are huge amounts of prize money on the line. Add this into pressure over getting into the “right” colleges and these kids are getting pushed hard sometimes by their parents. You know that parents are the biggest source of trouble in a class like this.

Greenwich is known as a super rich area even though there are students at all economic levels. This has added some tension around the program. Other schools think “Of course the rich school can produce fancy projects”. The book goes into a lot of detail about how the class is run on a shoe string budget but they do have a lot of contacts. Kids can go to professional labs and use a scanning electron microscope for free. The teacher gets a lot of used fancy lab equipment that other schools wouldn’t have access to. Some parents can pay for projects that others can’t.

The book follows several students through the year to see how they do with their projects and what life is like for them outside of class.  Who goes to prom?  Who gets into what college?  (Those college acceptances seem incredibly random.)  How do they decide what school to go to?  Should you even worry about finishing high school if you have a company producing what you invented in Science Research class and you’re in the running for a 7 million dollar prize?


Hero Dogs
20 Feb, 2019

Hero Dogs

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Hero Dogs Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster-Search Partners by Wilma Melville, Paul Lobo
on January 8, 2019
Pages: 336
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by St. Martin's Press
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

Lola was a buckshot-riddled stray, lost on a Memphis highway. Cody was rejected from seven different homes. Ace had been sprayed with mace and left for dead on a train track. They were deemed unadoptable. Untrainable. Unsalvageable. These would become the same dogs America relied on when its worst disasters hit.

In 1995, Wilma Melville volunteered as a canine search-and-rescue (SAR) handler with her Black Labrador Murphy in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, there were only fifteen FEMA certified SAR dogs in the United States. Believing in the value of these remarkable animals to help save lives, Wilma knew many more were needed in the event of future major disasters. She made a vow to help 168 dogs receive search-and-rescue training in her lifetime—one for every Oklahoma City victim.

Wilma singlehandedly established the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to meet this challenge. The first canine candidates—Ana, Dusty, and Harley—were a trio of golden retrievers with behavioral problems so severe the dogs were considered irredeemable and unadoptable. But with patience, discipline, and love applied during training, they proved to have the ability, agility, and stamina to graduate as SARs. Paired with a trio of firefighters, they were among the first responders searching the ruins of the World Trade Center following 9/11—setting the standard for the more than 168 of the SDF’s search-and-rescue dogs that followed. Beautiful and heart-wrenching, Hero Dogs is the story of one woman’s dream brought to fruition by dedicated volunteers and firefighters—and the bonds they forged with the incredible rescued-turned-rescuer dogs to create one of America’s most vital resources in disaster response.

Goodreads

Once upon a time, I was a puppy raiser for a service dog organization so I have had a glimpse of what it takes to make a working dog.  So many of the trials and tribulations of the search dog scene in the 1990s sound familiar.  

It is hard to believe now but at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, there were only 15 FEMA certified search dogs in the United States.  Search dog training at the time was a volunteer effort.  People trained their personal dogs in their spare time so it took years to get a dog with enough skills to pass the national tests.  Wilma Melville had a FEMA certified dog and was deployed to Oklahoma City.  She decided afterwards that there needed to be a way to get more dog teams ready.  She started a foundation to train stray dogs (because they were cheap/free) full time to try to turn them into search dogs in less than a year.  She decided to pair them with firefighters because they were already trained in disaster response.  

The dogs needed to have high prey drive to want to find people.  They had to be athletic to climb over rubble.  They had to be smart.  She found it all in her first rescue dog, Ana, who was failing out of service dog school for being too active.  When Wilma pulled in the driveway to meet her, Ana the Golden Retriever was standing up in the tree she had climbed.  

Reading about deployments is frustrating.  They don’t find a lot of people buried because they often don’t reach the scene for a day or more.   More teams in more areas could decrease mobilization times.  

This book is both sad and funny.  Stories of fruitless searches and the abuse some of the dogs endured before coming to the school are heartbreaking.  On the other hand, they are still dogs despite all their training and sometimes escape or just refuse to behave at exhibitions.  I loved the story of the dog searching at Ground Zero in New York who found an intact wall of Beanie Babies (his absolutely favorite toy) in a ruined store and had to be taken off the deployment for the day because he was too awe-struck to move on.  

This is a great book for all dog lovers.  

Buttermilk Graffiti
13 Feb, 2019

Buttermilk Graffiti

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Buttermilk Graffiti Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward Lee
on April 17, 2018
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Artisan
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

There is a new American culinary landscape developing around us, and it’s one that chef Edward Lee is proud to represent. In a nation of immigrants who bring their own culinary backgrounds to this country, what happens one or even two generations later? What does their cuisine become? It turns into a cuisine uniquely its own and one that Lee argues makes America the most interesting place to eat on earth. Lee illustrates this through his own life story of being a Korean immigrant and a New Yorker and now a Southerner. In Off the Menu, he shows how we each have a unique food memoir that is worthy of exploration. To Lee, recipes are narratives and a conduit to learn about a person, a place, or a point in time. He says that the best way to get to know someone is to eat the food they eat. Each chapter shares a personal tale of growth and self-discovery through the foods Lee eats and the foods of the people he interacts with—whether it’s the Korean budae jjigae of his father or the mustard beer cheese he learns to make from his wife’s German-American family. Each chapter is written in narrative form and punctuated with two recipes to highlight the story, including Green Tea Beignets, Cornbread Pancakes with Rhubarb Jam, and Butternut Squash Schnitzel. Each recipe tells a story, but when taken together, they form the arc of the narrative and contribute to the story we call the new American food.

Goodreads

Edward Lee is fascinated by what happens to food when people move to a new country.  For example, what happens when Korean immigrants move to an area where they can’t get the types of peppers that they are used to using and have to substitute South American varieties instead?  What new types of cuisines emerge?

He traveled around America to areas where new immigrant communities have grown up to sample the food.  Along the way he tries to ingratiate himself in restaurants to find the best food.  It doesn’t always go well. 

This book challenges a lot of deeply held beliefs in the foodie world.

  • What does it mean to call a food “authentic”?
  • If authentic means “the way it was made at a certain time in the past in a certain place”, does that imply that that culture’s food scene can’t evolve?  Must it stay stagnant so rich American people feel it is worth eating?
  • Who gets to be the judge of authenticity anyway?
  • Why is he looked at strangely if he decides to open a restaurant serving anything but Korean food?  Should he be limited to cooking the food of his ancestors?  Isn’t he allowed to evolve too?

There are a lot of recipes in this book.  I actually made a few which is really unusual for me.  I know now that I don’t like anything pickled except cucumbers.  I was making coleslaw at the same time I was reading this and he had a basic coleslaw recipe.  It was good. 

On The Come Up
12 Feb, 2019

On The Come Up

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading On The Come Up On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
on February 5, 2019
Pages: 464
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

Goodreads

I’ve been mildly worried about this book.  Second books are always hard but how do you follow up a phenomenon like The Hate U Give?  I didn’t want to hear a lot of snide talk about, “It’s good but it isn’t The Hate U Give.”  I was lucky enough to be able to get a copy from the library on release day.  I stayed up past my bedtime to read it all in one sitting.  Good sign.  What do I think?

It’s good but it isn’t The Hate U Give.

The good thing is that it isn’t trying to be.  This is a much smaller, more personal story.  It is set in Garden Heights a year after the events in THUG.  It is referenced a few times as ‘when that kid got killed last year’.  They are still dealing with increased police presence in the neighborhood that she says is meant to look friendly but really means that they are being watched.

Bri is the younger child of an up and coming rapper who was killed by a gang outside her house.  Her mother got addicted to drugs following the murder.  Bri and her older brother Trey lived with her father’s parents until her mother got clean.  Their grandmother and mother still have a very contentious relationship because of this. Trey just graduated from college but can’t find a job in his field and is home working at a pizza place.

Bri’s mom loses her job as a church secretary because the church can’t afford to fix the damage from the riots a year ago and pay her too.  Their financial situation was precarious before but now they need to decide which bills to pay.  They even have to accept from help from Aunt Pooh, a gang member and drug dealer.  Bri decides she needs to start making money from her music to help out.

She writes a song called On The Come Up.  It references an incident where Bri got thrown on the ground by some security guards at school.  She writes that no matter what she is actually doing she is perceived as a thug and as a gang member who is selling drugs and starting fights.  The song is catchy and gets popular in the neighborhood.  The problem is that the catchy parts that people sing along with are all about guns and being a gang member.  People miss the “I’m not like this but people think it” beginning part.  “Claiming to be into gang life” causes even more problems for Bri because that’s not her and she doesn’t know how to get out of the trouble it is causing.  People are even using the song to justify what the security guards did at school.  “See, she was a gang member..”

Perception vs reality is the major theme here

  • When Bri gets publicly angry that people are misinterpreting her song and making assumptions about her, she gets praised by her manager for perfectly “playing the role of a ghetto hood rat”.
  • Aunt Pooh is a major supportive part of Bri’s life but she is also a gang member who will disappear for days at a time to avenge some slight from another gang leaving people wondering if she is alive or dead.
  • As a female rapper, it is assumed that Bri has someone writing her words for her instead of her speaking for herself.

I love all the interactions in this book.  They feel so real.  You can feel the bitterness and resentment between her mother and grandmother.  I love the descriptions of church services.  It is like a full contact sport of what you say vs what you actually mean. 

This gets deep into what it is like day to day to be very financially insecure.  Which bill gets paid?  How long can you go with heat or electric?  What is it like to have to go to a food giveaway at Christmas?  Bri’s mom was taking college classes but she can’t do that and be eligible for food stamps so she has to drop out.  That puts her even farther away from getting a better job to help out their situation. 

About Angie Thomas

“Angie Thomas was born, raised, and still resides in Jackson, Mississippi as indicated by her accent. She is a former teen rapper whose greatest accomplishment was an article about her in Right-On Magazine with a picture included. She holds a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University and an unofficial degree in Hip Hop. She can also still rap if needed. She is an inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Meyers Grant 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was acquired by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in a 13-house auction and will be published in spring 2017. Film rights have been optioned by Fox 2000 with George Tillman attached to direct and Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg set to star.”   from Goodreads

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