Showing Posts From: Book Review

07 Dec, 2018

Rising Out of Hatred

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Rising Out of Hatred Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow
on September 18, 2018
Pages: 304
Length: 9:02
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Doubleday
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library


From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind

Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show – already regarded as the “the leading light” of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. “We can infiltrate,” Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. “We can take the country back.” Then he went to college. Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. “Derek Black…white supremacist, radio host…New College student???” The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek’s presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile for the first time with the ugliness his beliefs. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners–and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table–that Derek started to question the science, history and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done. Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek’s story can tell us about America’s increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and to help us better understand one another.

Goodreads

It was interesting to listen to this book shortly after listening to Educated.  Both books describe children who were indoctrinated into an extreme worldview and the way that their exposure to the larger world in college helped them break free of it.  (Of course, I kept muttering “Well, that’s why you got to keep them locked up and not let them go to them heathen colleges” like a proper zealot the whole time I was listening.)

I found the responses of his classmates intriguing.  There were basically two responses – shun him with the goal of making it so uncomfortable for him at school that he would leave, or befriend him in hopes of talking to him about his views.  I’m not sure where I would have fallen if I was in that situation.  Both approaches worked on him in different ways.  He had never had a lot sustained pushback about his beliefs before.  Arguments were just intellectual exercises for him.  Now he was facing people he knew who were being affected by the policies that he had helped popularize.  The people who befriended him took the risk of being thought guilty by association.  They were able to work on him in different ways.  His non-white friends could publicly be seen with him without people thinking they were white nationalists.  They put faces to categories of “immigrant” and “Jew” in his rhetoric.  His white friend was able to talk to him about his beliefs more openly because he didn’t automatically feel judgement from her based on her race but she was in danger of being assimilated by him or being thought to be a sympathizer.  

I was uncomfortable with a lot of the decisions that his white girlfriend made.  It worked out in the end but:

via GIPHY

 

She was so naive and he had spent his life converting people to the white nationalist cause.  She went to a nationalist conference with him.  One picture of her there on the internet could have ruined her future.  I wanted to slap some sense into her. 

I thought the book dwelled a little too long on their developing relationship.  Yeah, yeah, I get it.  They are maybe-maybe not dating.  I don’t need a play by play of their personal lives.  I’m here for the bigger picture.

The book’s description of their reaction to the rise of Trump should put to rest any ideas that he isn’t playing directly to white nationalists.  They point out all their talking points that he adopted.  They discuss the proposals that they always wanted that he is trying to enact.  

06 Dec, 2018

Looking To The Stars From Old Algiers

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Looking To The Stars From Old Algiers Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short by Jan Risher
on September 11, 2018
Pages: 328
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by University of Louisiana
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Jan Risher took the long way to get from Mississippi to Louisiana with stops in between in Slovakia, Mexico, China, Burkina Faso, and more than forty other countries. Since moving to Lafayette in 2001, she has been a Sunday columnist for The Daily Advertiser and has written a column every single week since March 2002.

Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short is the collection of these columns written over fifteen years. Arranged in chronological order, the collection creates a narrative of one woman's aim to build her family, build up her community, and weave the stories and lessons learned from the past into the present.

From her family's move to Louisiana, adoption of a daughter from China, covering Hurricane Katrina, travels near and far, author Jan Risher attempts, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, to do her small part to make the world a better place.

Goodreads

Jan Risher

Meet the Author:

Jan Risher is an award-winning journalist and investigative reporter. She was managing editor of The Times of Acadiana. Before and after her time as a full-time journalist, she was an English teacher. She has taught English near and far, in its most basic and most lyrical forms. She continues her career as a freelance writer and now owns Shift Key, a content marketing and public relations firm. She, her husband and their two daughters have made their home on the banks of the Vermilion River.

Connect with Jan: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

1. What inspired you to collect these columns into a book?

Through the years, I’ve been blessed to gather a large following of readers, primarily across Louisiana and Mississippi. Readers have asked for a collection through the years, but finding the time to do so has always been an issue. When the University of Louisiana Press spoke with me about the possibility, I believed in the care they would offer the collection — and had a deadline, which is really the main thing I need to get something done!

I thought I had easy access to all my columns but was wrong. Even though this collection finds its beginning in the early years of this century, I ended up having to go to the local university library and digging through microfilm to locate some of the early ones. I had not done as good of a job as I believed in keeping up with them all!

2. When reviewing the columns did you find that your opinions had changed on any subjects?

Surprisingly, I found that my views on most issues had not changed very much, which I found to be comforting. In a couple of rare instances, I was even proud of myself for certain word choices or insights gained. Going back and reading nearly a thousand columns to select the 182 that were eventually used for the book was a head trip. I relived so many of the experiences I had as a younger mother — things I thought I had remembered, but in fact had forgotten. The experience was very powerful. I was grateful to have a team of editors working with me who were able to take a more objective approach in which columns to include or not.

3. What did you hope your newspaper readers gained from the columns? Is it different for book readers?

When my daughters were younger, we said night prayers together every night. Each evening, we would pray to do our best to make the world a better place. In writing each piece for the newspaper, I had the same hope and prayer — that each could serve to and find the right readers who needed a certain tidbit to do his or her part to make the world a better place. Though I failed on occasion, I never wanted to come off as preachy. This is not a how-to book. As a collection of columns, I do believe it connects some of the dots of my hopes. I continue to pray that it serves readers and the lives they touch in a positive way.

 

Buy the Book:
Amazon ~ Author Website ~ Barnes & Noble
Add to Goodreads

 

BOOK REVIEW TOUR SCHEDULE:

Dec 3   – Locks, Hooks and Books – review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 4   – Library of Clean Reads – author interview / giveaway
Dec 6   – Based on a True Story – review / author interview / giveaway
Dec 6   – Library of Clean Reads – review / giveaway
Dec 7   – Olio by Marilyn – review / author interview / giveaway
Dec 10 – Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review / giveaway
Dec 11 – Books for Books – review
Dec 11 – The Hufflepuff Nerdette – review / guest post / giveaway
Dec 12 – Jorie Loves A Story – review / author interview
Dec 12 – #redhead.with.book – review / giveaway
Dec 13 – A Mama’s Corner of the World – review / giveaway
Dec 14 – Novel Escapes – review
Dec 14 – Mystery Suspense Reviews – review / guest post

 

​Enter the Giveaway!
Ends Dec 22, 2018


04 Dec, 2018

Mastering the Art of French Eating

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Mastering the Art of French Eating Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah
on September 26, 2013
Pages: 288
Genres: Cooking, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Pamela Dorman Books
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: France

The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time

"Excellent ingredients, carefully prepared and very elegantly served. A really tasty book."—Peter Mayle, author of The Marseille Caper and A Year in Provence

When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Lights is turned upside down.

So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.

Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.

Goodreads

I had this book on my iPad for a long time.  I had started reading it and then wandered off as I so often do.  However, I realized I had this while on my recent riverboat cruise in France, so I decided it was the perfect time to dust it off and finish it up.

I was actually on the outskirts of Lyon when I picked the book back up just in time for the chapter on Lyon. Lyon is known as gastronomic hot spot in France.  Their claim to fame are small restaurants that were started by women catering to working class people.  They are called “bouchons”.  They still exist and are considered some of the best places to eat.  I appreciate this book for explaining that they still feature tripe heavily in their meals.  Vegetarian-friendly is not a concept most of these have grasped.  A few days later I was standing in old town Lyon turning in a circle looking at all the bouchons.

Whispering to the husband – “We aren’t eating anywhere that says bouchon.”

Him – “Why?”

Me, muttering like just saying the word would manifest it in front of me – “Tripe”

Him – “What?””

Me – “It is sort of like restaurants who claim they are Family Restaurants in the U.S.”

He understood my theory that any restaurant that claims that title is using recipes from some old lady who cooked meat and potatoes without any spices and believed that the way to cook vegetables is to boil them until they give up.  Also, the soups are totally made with meat broth and if you order vegetable soup anyway odds are 50/50 that there will be unexpected chunks of meat in it.  Yes, I am a vegetarian foodie snob.

I was inspired by her chapter on beef bourguignon.  Once we got home I made a yummy mushroom version from Smitten Kitchen

I would recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about local food traditions in combination with a memoir.  She decides to write this book to distract her from the fact that she’s been left in France alone for a year.  They just moved there.  She knows no one.  You see her personal growth over the year as she reaches out of her comfort zone to make friends. 


So what did we eat in France?  Stay tuned for that post in a bit.

27 Nov, 2018

Educated

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Educated Educated by Tara Westover
on February 20, 2018
Pages: 334
Length: 12:10
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Random House
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Setting: Idaho

An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Goodreads

Somehow I completely missed the point of this book from the previews I read.  I thought this was going to be a book about a woman who received a college education after a lifetime of fake homeschool.  What this book is actually about is how a lifetime of psychological and physical abuse leaves scars that no amount of education can heal.

This book is brutal.  Tara is the youngest child of a Morman family whose father believes that they need to prepare constantly for the end times.  The children are kept out of school to keep them out of the hands of the Illuminati.  Half-hearted attempts were occasionally made to teach the children but by the time Tara came along, they weren’t even trying anymore.  She was indoctrinated in her father’s way of thinking which included regressive attitudes about women. 

Her relationship with an older brother, Shawn, was the worst of her problems.  At times he protected her from her father’s plans for her.  Other times he beat her.  In between he manipulated her into believing everything was her fault because she was a weak woman who needed to be disciplined to keep from becoming a whore. The violence and psychological torture escalated as she got older.  Any attempt to stand up for herself was brutally squashed.

Another brother convinced her that she could go to college and get out.  She did but hid everything from the outside world.  She had no idea how to function in society.  Her training in conspiracy theories led her to reject help from the state or the church because she believed any assistance was the way they got you to start participating in their evil. 

I was looking forward to reading about how she got out into the wider world.  This is actually where the story gets worse.  Her family’s attempts to reel her back in are monstrous.  Her mind was so broken by their brainwashing that she couldn’t see who to trust.  All she knew was that it was her duty to do what her family said.

As of the writing of the memoir, she is out and she is alive.  It could have gone the other way many times. 

While this book is extreme, I didn’t see it as far-fetched.  I’ve read several reviews that consider the story suspect.  While I don’t know anyone who has gone through this, I can see parts of people I know in many aspects of this story.  I see the affects of growing up with mentally ill, abusive parents who I would have written off years ago, in loved ones who are still trying to connect with these parents.  I’ve seen people struggle to rid themselves of the ideas that they were exposed to in childhood.  They know they aren’t true but still there is that small voice that asks, “But what if is it is true?” 

This isn’t a happy memoir of the power of education and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  I think this is an important book but be prepared to be very disturbed by the level of abuse described and then almost immediately discounted as unimportant or worse, deserved.

“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.”
13 Nov, 2018

The Good Neighbor

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Good Neighbor The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
on September 4, 2018
Pages: 416
Length: 14:07
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Setting: United States

New York Times bestseller

Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television and in the lives of tens of millions of children. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness. Rogers was fiercely devoted to children and to taking their fears, concerns, and questions about the world seriously.  The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon. Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers’s personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development. An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.

Goodreads

This is the most perfect combination of narrator and subject.  What could possibly be more soothing than listening to LeVar Burton reading about Fred Rogers?  It was so perfect that I listened to this at 1x speed and did not speed it up even at points when the story started to drag. 

This is a very in depth look at the life of Fred Rogers.  I was fascinated by stories from his childhood.  I didn’t know that he was born into a very wealthy family.  He became a very accomplished pianist and composer before finding out about this new fangled thing called television and deciding almost on a whim to try it out.  (It didn’t hurt that he was the son of some of the major stockholders of RCA which owned NBC at the time.)  Later he split his time between working at a TV station and going to seminary to become a minister.  These are all detours he couldn’t have taken if he had to worry about how to put food on the table for his family.

His mother instilled a sense of purpose in him.  She was a philanthropist but not the kind that gets their name on flashy buildings.  She found people in need and did what she could to support them.  

One thing that was never addressed was Why Children?  Everyone agrees that he had a child-like sense of wonder and that he related to kids more than adults but no one asked why.  He had a very lonely childhood.  He was bullied.  I would think that would make him want to leave childhood far behind.  He just always seemed to know that his purpose was to work with kids.  I would have liked to see that addressed more. 

This book is so detailed that it gets repetitive at times.  That’s my only complaint.  His life was fascinating.  Anyone looking for a scandal in his life isn’t going to find it.  Everyone agrees that the man you saw on TV was the real person.  

 

08 Nov, 2018

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle
on October 2, 2018
Pages: 288
Length: 8:12
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Crown Archetype
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned

From the ingenious comic performer, founding member of Monty Python, and creator of Spamalot, comes an absurdly funny memoir of unparalleled wit and heartfelt candor We know him best for his unforgettable roles on Monty Python--from the Flying Circus to The Meaning of Life. Now, Eric Idle reflects on the meaning of his own life in this entertaining memoir that takes us on an unforgettable journey from his childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theater, and film. Coming of age as a writer and comedian during the Sixties and Seventies, Eric stumbled into the crossroads of the cultural revolution and found himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of George Harrison, David Bowie, and Robin Williams, all of whom became dear lifelong friends. With anecdotes sprinkled throughout involving other close friends and luminaries such as Mike Nichols, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Paul Simon, Lorne Michaels, and many more, as well as the Pythons themselves, Eric captures a time of tremendous creative output with equal parts hilarity and heart. In Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, named for the song he wrote for Life of Brian (the film which he originally gave the irreverent title Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory) and that has since become the number one song played at funerals in the UK, he shares the highlights of his life and career with the kind of offbeat humor that has delighted audiences for five decades. The year 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Pythons, and Eric is marking the occasion with this hilarious memoir chock full of behind-the-scenes stories from a high-flying life featuring everyone from Princess Leia to Queen Elizabeth.

Goodreads

Eric Idle has always been my favorite member of Monty Python so I absolutely had to listen to this book.  I can’t imagine just reading this book.  Listening to him read this made the book.

This book was so much fun.  He is an unapologetic famous person.  He talks a lot about all of his famous friends.  He points out that he has non-famous friends but that no one in interested in reading about them.  He hung out with Beatles and Rolling Stones and all the other famous comedians in the 1970s so the stories are as wild as you’d expect.  One of my favorite stories was when Graham Chapman had a party at his house for his parents.  His parents were ready to go to bed at 10 PM but first they politely kicked the Rolling Stones out of the house.  I can see how some people would think of these stories as name dropping or bragging but he is full of so much love for his friends and joy for his life that I loved hearing about it.  What can you expect from a man who gave a toast at David Bowie’s wedding to Iman and once got mistaken for a Beatle while standing next to George Harrison (who was pushed aside unrecognized)? 

He weaves the story of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life through the book.  He wrote it to have a happy ending in his movie that actually ended with the main character being crucified.  Since then it has taken on a life of its own.  It started being sung during British military disasters and then at funerals.  He’s sung it for the Queen and during the Olympics.  He’s sung it in drag and in a tutu, as one does.

If you are a Monty Python fan who has watched the many documentaries about the history of the Pythons you’ll love this book.  You’ll have already gotten a good grasp of the official history from those shows.  This book will fill in what fun was happening behind the scenes and in the time since.

 

06 Nov, 2018

The Splendor of Birds

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Splendor of Birds The Splendor of Birds: Art and Photographs from National Geographic by National Geographic Society
on October 23, 2018
Pages: 512
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by National Geographic Society
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

An elegant collection of the best artwork and photography from the National Geographic archives depicting the magnificence of birds.

Bird, nature, and art lovers alike will treasure this sumptuous visual celebration of the colors, forms, and behaviors of the winged wonders who share our world as they have been explored, displayed, and revealed throughout the years by National Geographic. The book moves chronologically so readers witness the tremendous growth in our knowledge of birds over the last 130 years, as well as the new frontiers in technology and observation--from luminous vintage paintings and classic black and white photographs to state-of-the art high-speed and telephoto camera shots that reveal moments rarely seen and sights invisible to the human eye. The wide diversity of pictures captures beloved songbirds outside the kitchen window, theatrical courtship dance of birds of paradise, tender moments inside a tern's nest, or the vivid flash of a hummingbird's flight. Readers will delight in seeing iconic species from around the world through the eyes of acclaimed National Geographic wildlife photographers such as Chris Johns, Frans Lanting, Joel Sartore, and Tim Laman and reading excerpted passages from Arthur A. Allen, Roger Tory Peterson, Douglas Chadwick, Jane Goodall, and other great explorers. Exquisitely produced and expertly curated, this visual treasury displays as never before the irresistible beauty, grace, and intelligence of our feathered friends.

Goodreads

20181105_074120.jpg

The first thing I realized about this book is that it is absolutely massive.  There will be no laying leisurely in bed holding this above my head while reading.  I drop books and iPads on my face all the time.  If I drop this book, I would do myself an injury.

The second thing I realized is that it is absolutely amazing.

This is a history of National Geographic’s coverage of birds from the 1800s until now.  It is the best of their wonderful photography.  There are sections about how birds have been covered in the magazine.  There are articles comparing and contrasting articles on similar topics many years apart like this spread of what was known about hummingbird flight in 1957 and 2017.

20181105_074239.jpg

This isn’t a book that you are going to sit down and read right through.  It is a book to dive into a little bit at a time so you can savor the pictures and the knowledge. I’m looking forward to reading slowly through this book to properly enjoy it.

This is a high quality coffee table book that is perfect for anyone who loves birds and/or photography.  

Tuesday, October 23rd: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, October 23rd: Just a Secular Homeschooler
Wednesday, October 24th: Minnesota Birdnerd
Thursday, October 25th: she treads softly
Saturday, October 27th: The Bird Blogger
Monday, October 29th: As I turn the pages
Monday, October 29th: Birdchick
Tuesday, October 30th: Well-Read Naturalist
Tuesday, October 30th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read
Wednesday, October 31st: Instagram: @dropandgivemenerdy
Thursday, November 1st: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, November 1st: Jathan & Heather
Tuesday, November 6th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, November 7th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads
Wednesday, November 8th: The Birders Library
Friday, November 9th: Wall-to-Wall Books
Friday, November 9th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Monday, November 12th: 10000 Birds

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for hosting this book tour.

30 Oct, 2018

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony
on October 16th 2018
Pages: 368
Genres: Fiction
Published by Park Row
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: Minnesota

A formidable matriarch learns the hard way that no family is perfect in this witty, sparkling debut novel

Dearest loved ones, far and near--evergreen tidings from the Baumgartners!

Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she's going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet's carefully constructed world.

In an epic battle of wills, Violet goes to increasing lengths to wrest back control of her family, infuriating Cerise and snaring their family and friends in a very un-Midwestern, un-Baumgartner gyre of dramatics. And there will be no explaining away the consequences in this year's Baumgartner holiday letter...

Full of humor, emotion and surprises at every turn, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners brings to life a remarkable cast of quirky, deeply human characters who must learn to adapt to the unconventional, or else risk losing one another. This is the story of a family falling to pieces--and the unexpected way they put it all back together.

Goodreads

I loved this book because I know Violet, or rather I know several Violets.  These are women who will always tell you how their family is doing ever so well.  They have a story for each member of the family to illustrate their points.  If you know their offspring, you generally know that they are the local drug dealer and you are left wondering if their mother has ever met them at all.  The other side of Violet is the control freak.  She has the idea of her perfect family in her mind and you are NOT going to deviate from it.  I might be descended from a person like this but I know better than to say that out loud because I’ve been well trained.  She would vehemently deny being a control freak.  She just knows what she wants and will passive-aggressively move everyone around until she gets everyone where she wants them.  She can deny the existence of anything that mars this perfection.  (There is a week in my life that my Violet refuses to acknowledge.)  Yes, I know Violet and found even her most outrageous plans to be familiar.  It was fun to laugh at it happening to someone else. 

There are three mysteries in this book.  Violet is obsessed with finding out who is the father of her grandchild.  I found that mystery fairly easy to unravel.  There is also the mystery of some political sculptures appearing around town and a mystery of what Violet’s friend’s husband is doing when he disappears for days.  Those I didn’t figure out.  

I tend not to read a lot of literary type fiction but this one was funny enough to me to keep my interest.  Maybe you have to be Midwestern and know people like this to find it this funny.  If you don’t you might think it is pretty over the top.  

 

24 Oct, 2018

Searching for Sunday

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Searching for Sunday Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
on April 14th 2015
Pages: 268
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Thomas Nelson
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Held Evans comes a book that is both a heartfelt ode to the past and hopeful gaze into the future of what it means to be a part of the Church.Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn't want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals--church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.

Centered around seven sacraments, Evans' quest takes readers through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest.

A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, Searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.

Goodreads

I’m always interested in books that describe themselves as stories of people leaving evangelicalism. I want to know what was the last straw for them. How did leaving affect their lives?

I identified a lot with some of the things she talks about in this book. I could really feel her fear of leaving the community of the church. She was afraid of what would happen if they got sick or had a baby. Who would bring them casseroles? It’s a funny thing to think but there is no easy secular equivalent to that kind of community help in a functional church. I think that is what keeps a lot of people in the pews even if they disagree with what is being said.

I also didn’t like it when she talked about going to new churches and just waiting for them to do something that you disagreed with for theological reasons so you’d have something to complain about. That hit a little close to home.

Ultimately, I left the church and she is fighting hard to find reasons to stay. Me being me, I was thinking, “Why are you trying this hard? Just leave already.” But I guess she still feels connected to the god that she grew up believing in and wants to make a go of it.

This is a book where a lot of quotes jumped out at me.

I’ve gotten so spoiled reading ebooks that I’m not sure what to do with paperbooks that I want to quote. There’s no easy way to mark the quote in a library book. If I had them marked then I’d have to type the quote out instead of copy/paste? So much work. LOL.

Welcome to the laziest book review ever.

20181023_084430.jpg

Yes, yes, yes.  I would get so mad when I was in vet school and going to church because there were college age groups and married people groups and a dismal single people group that everyone felt sorry for.  Being a doctoral student defined my status much more than being single.  Likewise, I always hated the Women’s Bibles that would have commentary about husbands and children like that was what defined what a woman was.  

20181023_084406.jpg

Bouncers and Border Patrol Christianity are perfect descriptions.  

22 Oct, 2018

Castle Hangnail

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Castle Hangnail Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
on April 21st 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade
Published by Dial Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

From the creator of Dragonbreath comes a tale of witches, minions, and one fantastic castle, just right for fans of Roald Dahl and Tom Angleberger.

When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.

Goodreads

This book has everything I absolutely love about fantasy books.  It is chock full of imagination and whimsy.  There are also dragons.  You must have dragons.

Molly knows that she is going to be a Wicked Witch.  She can do some magic.  She has an over-the-top Good Twin.  So she steals an invitation to apply for the job of Master of Castle Hangnail.  Who cares that she is only 12?

The Guardian of the castle cares, for a start.  He knows the castle is in danger of being decommissioned if a new master isn’t found who can complete all the tasks assigned.  There needs to be proper blighting and smiting and defending of the castle and capturing the hearts of the villagers (probably literally if the new master is an Evil Sorceress or a Vampire).  Can a cheery 12 year old manage that?

I love the staff of the castle. 

  • The Guardian has served under many truly evil masters and knows how minions should be properly treated.  He isn’t prepared to be given an actual name and thanked for things.  It just isn’t right. 
  • Pins is a stuffed doll who can sew anything, including waterproof sweaters for his goldfish
  • The goldfish is a hypochondriac
  • Cook is a Minotaur who is very angry about the letter Q
  • Angus is Cook’s son and general helper
  • Edward is an enchanted suit of armor with rusty knees
  • There is a woman made of steam.  This happens when a djinn mates with a human woman who didn’t know she had mermaid ancestry.
  • There are clockwork bees and all kinds of bats including one insomniac bat who stays awake during the day and sleeps at night.

Molly is going to be Wicked but not Evil.  Wicked will punish a person to make them think about what they did.  Evil will hurt people for fun.  So she blights weeds and asks around to see who is being mean and is in need of a good smiting.  When she finds someone who is mean to his donkey, she uses a spell to turn the donkey temporarily into a dragon to scare the mean man.  After that all the animals want to take a turn being a dragon, of course!  

This book was absolutely delightful from beginning to end.  I read it in a day.  I was hoping that there was going to be a follow up to see what happens next at Castle Hangnail but so far, no luck.  

15 Oct, 2018

Hot For Food Vegan Comfort Classics

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Hot For Food Vegan Comfort Classics Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face by Lauren Toyota
on February 27th 2018
Pages: 240
Genres: Cooking
Published by Penguin Books Canada
Format: Paperback
Source: Library


A fun and irreverent take on vegan comfort food that's saucy, sweet, sassy, and most definitely deep-fried, from YouTube sensation Lauren Toyota of Hot for Food.

In this bold collection of more than 100 recipes, the world of comfort food and vegan cooking collide as Lauren Toyota shares her favorite recipes and creative ways to make Philly cheesesteak, fried chicken, and mac 'n' cheese, all with simple vegan ingredients. Never one to hold back, Lauren piles plates high with cheese sauce, ranch, bacon, and barbecue sauce, all while sharing personal stories and tips in her engaging and hilarious voice. The result is indulgent, craveworthy food - like Southern Fried Cauliflower, The Best Vegan Ramen, and Raspberry Funfetti Pop Tarts - made for sharing with friends at weeknight dinners, weekend brunches, and beyond.

Goodreads

This would be a great cookbook for people who want to move to a vegetarian or vegan diet but are hung up on all the foods that they won’t be able to have anymore if they give up meat.  The book starts with several pages of recipes devoted to making substitutes for bacon from several different vegetables.  It moves onto using cauliflower as a base for vegan fried chicken.  A lot of the book concentrates on making vegan versions of meat-based favorites.

I don’t really have any comfort foods that contained meat.  I don’t like fried foods.  A lot of the recipes in this book don’t appeal to me for those reasons.  Others are familiar to people who have been vegetarian for a long time.

What did appeal to me as a long time vegetarian was her section on sauces.  She has a very simple vegan mayo recipe (Why does prepared vegan mayo cost a fortune?) and then uses it as a base for several dressings, including my favorite, Thousand Island.  I’m definitely going to try that when my current bottle of dressing runs out.  She also has basic recipes for cake and frosting and then shows multiple flavor variations.  If I baked much, I’d be all over that.

I am going to make the cover recipe this week.  It is a buffalo style baked cauliflower sandwich.  I’m going to make the cauliflower in slices and combine it with salad fixings for dinner. 

This book also has the most delightfully insane recipe I think I’ve ever seen.  It is for a double decker veggie burger topped with both Thousand Island and BBQ sauce (yum) but then, then, the buns are made out of ramen noodles.  Why are the buns made out of ramen noodles?  Because you can.

via GIPHY

I love everything in that recipe. Sure, I’ve only had them separately but what could go wrong? I’m a bit concerned about the ability to fit it in my mouth so I would make a single burger.  You know, it’s healthier that way.  I even bought some ring molds to make the buns.  It will happen someday.  In the meantime, Thousand Island and BBQ may be my go to burger dressing. 

08 Oct, 2018

Right on the Monet

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Right on the Monet Right on the Monet by Malcolm Parnell
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

New York
Claude Monet painting is stolen
Mediterranean
Of all the things Harry Chase had imagined in his life, being a drummer on a cruise ship band was not one that would have occurred to him. And yet, there he was. Centre stage, behind a young female singer along with his mates, Dave, Tony and Steve.
Which meant that getting involved in a jewellery theft, an on-board massage parlour and the hunt for an Old Master was even further from his mind as he cracked the snare drum.
And yet, this was exactly how he found himself being questioned by Interpol …..

Goodreads

 


This is the third book in a series but enough context is given to allow you to pick up the story if you are starting with this book.

The story line was inventive.  The mystery was complicated enough with enough red herrings to sustain the whole book. There was a fairly large cast and I was able to keep the male characters straight because they each had distinct personalities and character traits.

It did drive me batty that every time they went into a new country on this cruise all they did was shop. Who does that? You are supposed to go sightseeing.  But that story choice leads into my main problem with this book — its lazy characterization of women.

At heart this is a male fantasy where all the women are attracted to the main character and try to get him to have sex with them even though they know his partner.

One of the first things I noticed about this book is how many breasts were in it.  I know this because they were pointed out every time they appeared in a scene. I sighed and reminded myself that I don’t read a lot of male fiction authors and sometimes these authors are distracted easily.  Also every female character was introduced not by her purpose in the narrative or her relationship to other characters but by her appearance and sexual desirability. Then I got to this line.

“Like Clem, Liz was blonde and although approaching her mid-forties was still a very attractive woman.”

 

No, sir. Nope. Done. Automatic DNF from this 45 year old hag. It puts me in mind of this:

733959447

But alas, this is not the real world, this is a review book so I soldiered on.

“I looked at the five women sitting around the table and realised that any man would give his eye teeth to spend a night with any one of them;”

 

At the time the people were having important conversations but that’s ok, ignore that and focus on reducing them to your sexual fantasies.

 

The resolution of the plot isn’t even allowed to escape.

“Within minutes two squad cars containing plane (sic) clothes detectives had arrived along with two cars carrying uniformed police; one of whom was a very attractive WPC, and I made a mental note to somehow get Cara a police uniform.”

 

At one point there is this description:

“The barman was small and effeminate, his head was shaved at the sides, and he wore a black ponytail tied up in a top knot. The badge on the lapel of his bright red waistcoat said Sam. He seemed vaguely familiar. “I haven’t seen you guys in here before,” he said holding out a limp wrist. His accent was either American or Canadian.

I shook his hand, and his fingers collapsed in my grip; a similar experience to squeezing a soft rubber ball. “No, first time,” I replied surreptitiously wiping my hand on my trouser leg.”

 

If that isn’t bad enough, he is referred to later in this conversation.

“It’s a good picture of that bloke’s arse,” Steve added, “maybe we could take it to Sam, the barman, he might recognise it.”

 

Contrast this to the treatment of one of the main characters who is a lesbian. Of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in this book, except for one character’s repeated attempts to sleep with her because all lesbians just need a man to show them what they are missing, right? /sarcasm.  Even she is interested in having the main character watch her have sex. (Sadly, not even joking.)

If you like your mysteries served with a large topping of sexist banter on top, then you might enjoy this one. 

Right on the Monet Full Tour Banner

04 Oct, 2018

The Ravenmaster

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Ravenmaster The Ravenmaster: Life with the Ravens at the Tower of London by Christopher Skaife
on October 2, 2018
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: England

The first behind-the-scenes account of life with the legendary ravens at the world’s eeriest monument

The ravens at the Tower of London are of mighty importance: rumor has it that if a raven from the Tower should ever leave, the city will fall.

The title of Ravenmaster, therefore, is a serious title indeed, and after decades of serving the Queen, Yeoman Warder Christopher Skaife took on the added responsibility of caring for the infamous ravens. In Ravenmaster, he lets us in on his life as he feeds his birds raw meat and biscuits soaked in blood, buys their food at Smithfield Market, and ensures that these unusual, misunderstood, and utterly brilliant corvids are healthy, happy, and ready to captivate the four million tourists who flock to the Tower every year.

A rewarding, intimate, and inspiring partnership has developed between the ravens and their charismatic and charming human, the Ravenmaster, who shares the folklore, history, and superstitions surrounding the ravens and the Tower. Shining a light on the behavior of the birds, their pecking order and social structure, and the tricks they play on us, Skaife shows who the Tower’s true guardians really are―and the result is a compelling and irreverent narrative that will surprise and enchant.

Goodreads

I’ve been following the author on Twitter for a while so I was familiar with his job and what it entails.  Despite that, this is still a fascinating look at the care of the ravens at the Tower of London.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, there is a legend (which the author casts doubts on) that if the ravens leave the Tower of London, then England will fall.  There are seven ravens who live in the Tower.  They are free during the day to mingle with the tourists, steal food from the tourists, and observe the general hub bub.  At night they have an enclosure to help protect them from the foxes who also live in the tower.  

“In the past the Ravenmasters preferred to put the food out around the Tower, but the problem was that a seagull might take a nice juicy piece of ox liver, say, that was intended for a raven, have a little nibble on it and then casually drop it on a visitor from a great height.”

 

The ravens aren’t pets.  They aren’t tame.  They don’t work on your schedule.  They don’t sit nicely on the bench when David Attenborough wants to film with them.  They are prone to killing and eating pigeons (not always in that order) in front of the tourists.  Most of the Ravenmaster’s time seems to be taken up with getting them where they are supposed to be and getting them out of places where they shouldn’t be. 

“[m]ore than once I’ve seen a raven chasing the Tower’s many resident cats and dogs.” 

 

Readers of this book will find out not only lots about ravens but about what it takes to be a Yeoman Warder.  He discusses The Story – the official tour group talk that takes people about 6 months to learn perfectly before they can start to change it by adding in their own embellishments.  The Story is standardized so any Yeoman Warder can step in and take over a tour if the original guide has to step away to help someone (like if they faint after watching ravens murder other birds.)  

The book is written in short chapters in a very conversational style which makes it a very quick and entertaining read.  I enjoyed this more since I have been to the Tower and could visualize most of the places that he is discussing.  If you haven’t been there, looking at a map of the grounds would be helpful to understanding the story. 

There are several stories of the deaths of some of the ravens from illness, accidents, and old age.  They made me a little teary as did this last line of the acknowledgements about Munin, who hated him from day 1. 

“A very special thank-you to Munin. During the publication of this book, sadly, Raven Munin passed away due to complications of old age. Her presence at the Tower will be greatly missed by her partner, Jubilee; by Team Raven; and by all staff at Historic Royal Palaces.”

 

02 Oct, 2018

We Fed an Island

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading We Fed an Island We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés
on September 11th 2018
Pages: 288
Length: 10:35
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Anthony Bourdain/Ecco
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Setting: Puerto Rico

FOREWORD BY LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA AND LUIS A. MIRANDA, JR.

The true story of how a group of chefs fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans after Hurricane Maria and touched the hearts of many more

Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world.

Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business.

Based on Andrés’s insider’s take as well as on meetings, messages, and conversations he had while in Puerto Rico, We Fed an Island movingly describes how a network of community kitchens activated real change and tells an extraordinary story of hope in the face of disasters both natural and man-made, offering suggestions for how to address a crisis like this in the future. 

Beyond that, a portion of the proceeds from the book will be donated to the Chef Relief Network of World Central Kitchen for efforts in Puerto Rico and beyond.

Goodreads

Chef Jose Andres has developed his theories on food relief first by working with a homeless shelter who used restaurant left overs to feed people and then expanding their process after the earthquake in Haiti.  The biggest test so far of his small non-profit came after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

His ideas are simple:

  1. Find a working commercial kitchen and chefs.  He started in a friend’s restaurant in San Juan.
  2. Source the ingredients locally to avoid delays and to let businesses in the supply chain start to rebuild.  In Puerto Rico he used the normal suppliers that restaurants would use. 
  3. Make a few simple dishes that can be made in huge quantities.  They started with a stew, pans of chicken and rice, and thousands of ham and cheese sandwiches. 
  4. Use local food trucks to deliver food to the hardest hit areas.  Also partner with whatever group is going into areas and have them deliver food.  Among his best delivery teams in Puerto Rico was Homeland Security.
  5. Open other commercial kitchens in strategic areas around the disaster area and repeat.  Throughout his time in Puerto Rico they used a convention center, school kitchens, culinary school kitchens, and a church. 

One of his major complaints about the food situation in Puerto Rico was that the groups who normally handle this in disasters on the mainland decided that it was too hard to get food to the island so they didn’t.  The Red Cross for example, didn’t bring in the Southern Baptists and their mobile kitchens to cook like they normally do so they didn’t have any food to deliver.  (I had no idea the Southern Baptists have a whole relief cooking operation despite going to a Southern Baptist church for four years.  Never heard of it.)  Food and water distribution was not listed as a priority for most groups.

When food was getting distributed it was MREs.  These are prepared military food packets and they can get you through a few days but you don’t want them long term.  He was also angry that water was being given in bottles only.  He campaigned for tanker trucks of water to be taken to towns and let people fill their own containers instead of adding all the plastic waste to the environment.  That idea didn’t get taken up.

A lot of this book is about his fight with FEMA.  He wanted a government contract to pay for his supplies.  He had started ordering food and supplies on a handshake with the distributor with no idea how he was going to pay for it.  At their peak they were spending over $50,000 a day on food.  Government contracting is a slow business that is doubly hard in a disaster.  He talks about contracts that were given to people who never delivered food.  The husband was a government contract person (not with FEMA).  He listened to some of this part and talked about the other side.  After disasters, FEMA contractors are apparently reviewed and taken to task for working too quickly, for not getting bids even if there is only one supplier in the area, etc.  Careers get ruined because people were trying to do the right or fastest thing in an emergency and now there is a lot of trouble trying to get anyone to do those jobs and those who remain aren’t likely to take risks.  Things are just going to get worse. 

This is a good review of what happened in the disaster from the point of view of an outsider to the government.  His ideas are definitely worth listening to and I’m interested to see where his nonprofit, World Central Kitchen, goes from here.

 

25 Sep, 2018

Costa del Churros

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Costa del Churros Costa del Churros by Isabella May
on September 18, 2018
Genres: Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: Spain

The rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall on the plain…
Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.
Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town's flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers? 
One thing's for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again

Goodreads

This book tells the story of British people behaving badly in Spain.

  • Belinda is on the run with her husband Jez.  They are living on the yacht that is all they have left after their business collapsed in England, probably because of her husband’s shady dealings.
  • Julia lives with her husband and daughter.  She’s the type of ex-pat who refers to all other foreigners as immigrants and is angry that people in Spain want her to speak something other than English.
  • Laura lives in a super wealthy English enclave with her husband and mother and children.  She spends her time lunching with other wives and is bored out of her mind.
  • Georgina has been dumped in Spain after a bad breakup and an even worse rebound fling.  She’s working in a bar and has just learned that she is about to be kicked out of her housing.

These four end up joining an unorthodox flamenco class in a small town. The first lessons involve learning to step out of your comfort zone.  A lot of this happens around eating churros.  Most of these women are horrified at the idea of eating anything with so many fried carbs covered in chocolate sauce.  But each little act of rebellion against the lives that they are living leads to larger steps until their lives are changed forever.

There is an element of magical realism in this story.  The flamenco teacher Carmen is able to determine exactly what push each of them needs.  She’s a mysterious figure.  You never learn much about her.  She never even teaches them to dance.  They can just magically do it perfectly Costa del Churros Full Tour Banner .  This fits into the stereotype of the “exotic” person who teaches white people to fix themselves and then disappears, presumably to go help others.

I never really warmed up to the characters, except for Laura.  She realizes that she is living in Spain and not some English colony.  She starts to want to get out more and learn some Spanish and interact with the real country.  She moves away from the overwhelming fakeness of her life.  I wanted to back away slowly from the other characters.  Even as the story progresses and you are supposed to start to feel for them I couldn’t get over the horribleness of how they are first described.

 

 


Giveaway – Win a signed copy of The Cocktail Bar (Open Internationally) Giveaway Prize - The Cocktail Bar
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio –
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.

Social Media Links –
www.isabellamayauthor.com
Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/
Instagram – @isabella_may_author

13 Sep, 2018

The Gin Shack on the Beach

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Gin Shack on the Beach The Gin Shack on the Beach by Catherine Miller
on June 5th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: England

When octogenarian Olive Turner is persuaded by her son to move into a retirement home, she congratulates herself on finding the secret to an easy life: no washing up, cooking or cleaning. But Olive isn’t one for mindless bingo with her fellow residents, and before the first day is over she's already hatching a plan to escape back to her beloved beach hut and indulge in her secret passion for a very good gin & tonic.

Before long Olive’s secret is out and turning into something wonderful and new. Only a select few are invited, but word spreads quickly about the weekly meetings of The Gin Shack Club. Soon everybody on the beach wants to become a gin connoisseur and join Olive on her journey to never being forced to grow older than you feel.

Goodreads

I picked up this book because it is precisely a genre that I don’t think we can ever have enough of – old lady chick lit!

Give me stories of older women in charge of their own lives; finding new passions; doing whatever they want!  I’ll read them all.  Give me more old ladies defying their fussy children and skinny dipping at the beach. 

This book also made me really, really want a beach hut even though I don’t live by the beach and even if I did, they aren’t a thing here. 

Olive moves into a home where everyone cares about safety to the point of not allowing the residents to live.  This is actually a huge problem for older people.  If you can’t do anything other than what is super-safe, you don’t get to do anything fun.

I was intrigued by the gin combinations that are discussed here.  I wish there were some recipes for the cocktails discussed.  I don’t drink so I have no idea if I like gin or not but this book made me want to try some.  I feel like I wouldn’t like a gin and tonic at all but the gin with violet syrup that tasted like candied violets sounded interesting.  I’m not sure if the rhubarb one sounded good or not but they were fans of it in the book. 

I didn’t care much for the bit of mystery in the book.  I was just here for the characters and their adventures!

06 Sep, 2018

Matrimonial Advertisements

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Matrimonial Advertisements The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews
on September 4, 2018
Series: Parish Orphans of Devon #1
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England


She Wanted Sanctuary...

Helena Reynolds will do anything to escape her life in London, even if that means traveling to a remote cliffside estate on the North Devon coast and marrying a complete stranger. But Greyfriar's Abbey isn't the sort of refuge she imagined. And ex-army captain Justin Thornhill--though he may be tall, dark, and devastatingly handsome--is anything but a romantic hero.


He Needed Redemption...

Justin has spent the last two decades making his fortune, settling scores, and suffering a prolonged period of torture in an Indian prison. Now, he needs someone to smooth the way for him with the villagers. Someone to manage his household--and warm his bed on occasion. What he needs, in short, is a wife and a matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to acquire one.

Their marriage was meant to be a business arrangement and nothing more. A dispassionate union free from the entanglements of love and affection. But when Helena's past threatens, will Justin's burgeoning feelings for his new bride compel him to come to her rescue? Or will dark secrets of his own force him to let her go?

Goodreads

I have pretty strict rules about the historical romances that I will read. Generally they need to be recommended by some trusted sources on Twitter.  When I pick them myself I tend to get horrible books that I DNF.  That’s why I’m so excited about this book.  I chose this one from the description on the book tour and I absolutely loved it!

Helena is on the run but she isn’t flighty or impetuous.  Her escape from her family has been well planned.  She needs to get married in order to wrest control of her inheritance from her relatives.  She is unable to control it herself because she is a woman so she is in desperate need of a husband.

Justin returned from being a prisoner of war in India and in an act of pure spite, managed to seize control of the largest house from its impoverished gentleman owner.  Now he is hated by the community and just wants to be left alone.  His secretary and a lawyer friend though have advertised for a bride for him.  He’s ignored them up to now when his friend in London sent him a woman who is obviously in trouble.

I loved that these were both sensible, no-nonsense people.  There was a real threat that Helena was running from based on newspaper accounts of the time.  This was a great way to get actual historical issues into the story. 

This book felt comfortable from the opening pages.  I was pulled directly into the story.  This is the type of historical romance that I love and I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. 


Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of The Matrimonial Advertisement! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on September 18th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

The Matrimonial Advertisement

04_The Matrimonial Advertisement_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

03 Sep, 2018

Mistress of Pennington’s

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mistress of Pennington’s The Mistress of Pennington's by Rachel Brimble
on July 1, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Format: eBook
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Setting: England

Elizabeth Pennington should be the rightful heir of Bath's premier department store through her enterprising schemes and dogged hard work. Her father, Edward Pennington, believes his daughter lacks the business acumen to run his empire and is resolute a man will succeed him.

Determined to break from her father's iron-clad hold and prove she is worthy of inheriting the store, Elizabeth forms an unlikely alliance with ambitious and charismatic master glove-maker Joseph Carter. United they forge forward to bring Pennington's into a new decade, embracing woman's equality and progression whilst trying not to mix business and pleasure.

Goodreads

This book takes place in 1910 in Bath.  I read a lot of historical fiction but I don’t see many books set in this time period.  I was interested to read about a woman who is trying to take over her family business at a time when this was not an acceptable thing to do.  This is also a time of great changes in retail.  Ready to wear clothing is becoming more popular.  Being able to touch the merchandise without a clerk helping you is a new idea.

I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book.  In the beginning the writing was a bit clunky.  There was a whole lot more description of what people were thinking than showing their actions on the page.  I set the book aside for a while because of this.  I don’t know if I would have picked it back up if it wasn’t a review book for me and if I wasn’t really interested in the premise.

I’m not sure if the writing improved as I got into the story or if I just accepted it as I went along but it didn’t bother me as much as I got deeper into the book.  There are several conflicts here:

  1. The heroine who wants to run the store versus her father who wants her to marry and live the life of a rich housewife.
  2. The hero who wants to expand from a small family store to selling their merchandise in department stores over his father’s objections.
  3. There was conflict between the heroine and hero’s families in the past.
  4. Should department stores continue to cater to the wealthy or should they bring in lower price clothing for the new middle class customers?  Would the wealthy continue to shop there if you let lower classes in the same stores?

 

It was interesting to see the ideas that were considered so progressive (and potentially alarming) that are commonplace now. The anti-woman rhetoric was as expected. Women aren’t smart enough to be in business. Suffragettes are just rabble-rousers causing the downfall of society.

This is a good book for anyone who loves historical fiction where you learn a lot about a topic.

The Mistress of Penningtons Full Banner

21 Aug, 2018

Romance Reviews

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Romance Reviews A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole
on July 31, 2018
Pages: 384
Series: Reluctant Royals #2
Genres: Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Scotland


Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way…

New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.

Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice—and his attraction to her—but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.  

Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?

Goodreads

Alyssa Cole is an autobuy author for me for both her contemporary and historical romances.  This is book 2 of her contemporary Reluctant Royals series.

Do you have to read the first book to read this one?

Not really as long as you can just accept that her best friend is a Princess. (But you should read the first book because it was wonderful.)

Portia has always felt like she is a failure.  She comes from a highly successful family.  Her twin overcame a life threatening illness and now runs a very successful website.  Her family is pushing her take a job with the family company just so she does something stable.   Instead she took an internship with a Scottish sword maker, because that’s a practical life skill.

Her skills are a big help to the company though.  She increases their social media profiles so they get more business.  She redoes their website.  It is in doing research for the website that she finds out about her boss’s relationship to a former Duke.

I liked that the conflict keeping them apart in the story was a logical one.  He’s her boss and it is inappropriate and wrong to hit on interns.  People should remember that.

This was a fun read that I finished in a few sittings.  I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.


Romance Reviews Primrose and the Dreadful Duke by Emily Larkin
on August 7, 2018
Pages: 355
Series: Garland Cousins,
Setting: England

He's inherited more than just a dukedom...

Oliver Dasenby is the most infuriating man Primrose Garland has ever known. He may be her brother’s best friend, but he has an atrocious sense of humor. Eight years in the cavalry hasn’t taught him solemnity, nor has the unexpected inheritance of a dukedom.

But when Oliver inherited his dukedom, it appears that he also inherited a murderer.

Oliver might be dreadfully annoying, but Primrose doesn’t want him dead. She’s going to make certain he survives his inheritance—and the only way to do that is to help him catch the murderer!

Goodreads


Emily Larkin’s Baleful Godmother books are also autobuys for me.  This is the first book in a new series but it is set in the same world as her previous books.

Do you have to read the other books to read this one?

The premise of these books is that a long time ago a woman helped a fairy.  In exchange all her female descendants are granted their choice of a magical power at some point in their mid-twenties.  Each book can be read as a standalone.

Primrose’s power is teleportation.  That’s a good choice.  That’s the power I would choose.  I like that she is first seen using it to go get a book she forgot at her house.  However, her magic doesn’t really affect the story a lot.  The same story could be told without it.

Oliver was an Army officer who came home after he inherited a title.  He was far out of the line of succession but several relatives have died unexpectedly in the last year.  Now someone seems to be trying to kill Oliver too.  The mystery of who it is the main story of the book.  It is quickly narrowed down to two suspects but the story twists and turns to keep you guessing.  

All the action takes place at a house party where Oliver is the fresh meat being dangled in front of several marriageable ladies and their mothers.  He is trying to stay out of their clutches but the marriage hunt is deadly serious.  

Primrose and her brother are Oliver’s childhood friends who are trying to keep him safe.  Their relationship develops because Primrose is the only woman who likes him for himself instead of his title.

 

17 Aug, 2018

The New Farm

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading The New Farm The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution by Brent Preston
on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Random House Canada
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: Ontario Canada

The inspiring and sometimes hilarious story of a family that quit the rat race and left the city to live out their ideals on an organic farm, and ended up building a model for a new kind of agriculture. When Brent Preston, his wife, Gillian, and their two young children left Toronto ten years ago, they arrived on an empty plot of land with no machinery, no money and not much of a clue. Through a decade of grinding toil, they built a real organic farm, one that is profitable, sustainable, and their family's sole source of income. Along the way they earned the respect and loyalty of some of the best chefs in North America, and created a farm that is a leading light in the good food movement. Told with humour and heart in Preston's unflinchingly honest voice, The New Farm arrives at a time of unprecedented interest in food and farming, with readers keenly aware of the overwhelming environmental, social and moral costs of our industrial food system. The New Farm offers a vision for a hopeful future, a model of agriculture that brings people together around good food, promotes a healthier planet, and celebrates great food and good living."

Goodreads

A lot of the time when you read memoirs about people moving away from the city and starting a farm they stop the story after a few years.  This book chronicles ten years of the ups and downs of a small organic farm.  

What I found most interesting was the multiple times that they found that they needed to stray from small organic farm “orthodoxy” in order to have a viable and profitable business. 

  • They tried growing a large number of crops but realized that most people don’t want the exotic stuff so now they grow mostly greens and cucumbers.
  • They abandoned farmers’ markets and CSAs to sell directly to restaurants
  • They tried using wannabe farmers as interns for farm labor but they were such bad workers that they ended up hiring Mexican workers instead.  

I was interested in the difference between the experience of Mexican migrant farm workers on this farm in Canada versus what I was familiar with in the United States.  In Canada there are worker programs so they are in the country legally and have workers’ rights.  The guidelines seem reasonable and we should have programs like that too.  

I also liked that this book did not shy away from the cruelty involved in animal agriculture.  I found the section about their pigs and chickens hard to read.  They have moved away from raising pigs in part because they had issues with it too.  

There is a truism in farming that you have to go big to survive.  They discuss the conflicts that they have had about this.  At what point do you stop trying to grow so you don’t destroy yourself or your marriage?  They are very honest about the toll that the last ten years have had on their relationships.  

I really enjoyed reading this book.  I think that this is a good book for anyone interested in what it really takes to have a small farm. 

 

UA-56222504-1