Showing Posts From: Book Review

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man
29 Jan, 2019

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man

The Further Accidental Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson, Rachel Willson-Broyles
on January 15, 2019
Pages: 448
Genres: Fiction
Published by William Morrow
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

The hysterical, clever, and unforgettable sequel to Jonas Jonasson’s international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

What's next for Allan Karlsson? Turns out this centenarian has a few more adventures in store . . .

It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!

Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.

Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson that will have readers howling out-loud at the escapades and misfortunes of its beloved hundred-year-old hero Allan Karlsson and his irresistible sidekick Julius.

 

 

Goodreads

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I read the previous book, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared several years ago. I would sum it up as sort of Swedish Forrest Gump. Allan Karlsson managed to be a part of most of the major events in the 20th century. I don’t remember much more that that.

That didn’t hinder my enjoyment of this book. In fact, I think you really don’t have to have read the first book in order to pick up this one. All you need to know is that Allan escaped his nursing home in Sweden and through a series of adventures has found himself in Bali accompanied by a petty thief named Julius and a suitcase full of money that is rapidly running out due to the rate at which they are spending it.

This book focuses on Allan and Julius and their interaction with current events.  My husband wandered in at one point when I was reading and asked what the book was about.  That’s a hard question.  Here’s what I told him.

“A hot air balloon ride goes wrong which leads to them being picked up by a North Korean ship smuggling uranium.  They convince the captain they have the ability to fix the North Korean nuclear program but actually escape with the uranium and head to New York.  There they meet Donald Trump but decide not to give him the uranium because he seems unhinged.  So they give it to the German ambassador under false pretenses along with a note to Angela Merkel written on three napkins telling her not to be too mad that they tricked the ambassador.”

He just nodded and walked away.

That was before they started dealing in coffins caskets.  If you like books full of absurdity, this is for you.  If you like books that work in lots of anti-Trump rhetoric, you’ll love this one extra.  There is a joke very early on about how polar bears should start walking south to stay ahead of the ice caps melting but not all the way to the U.S. because although they are white, they are still foreigners.  That made me laugh hard and settle in for the ride.


About Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson is the author of the international bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, now a major motion picture. Prior to his success as a novelist, Jonas was a journalist for the Swedish newspaper Expressen for many years, and later became a media consultant and founded a production company specializing in sporting events for Swedish television, which he sold before moving abroad to work on his first novel. He is the author of the internationally successful novels The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden and Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All. He lives on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

Find out more about Jonas at his website, and connect with him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

 
Tuesday, January 15th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, January 16th: Instagram: @rendezvous_with_reading
Thursday, January 17th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Friday, January 18th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Monday, January 21st: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, January 22nd: Instagram: @mrsmurphyreads

Tuesday, January 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Wednesday, January 23rd: What Is That Book About

Thursday, January 24th: 5 Minutes For Books

Monday, January 28th: Laura’s Reviews
Tuesday, January 29th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, January 30th: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, January 31st: Man of La Book
Monday, February 4th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, February 5th: Instagram: @theunreadshelf
Wednesday, February 6th: Write – Read – Life
Thursday, February 7th: Stacy’s Books
Friday, February 8th: Read Till Dawn
Friday, February 8th: Lit and Life
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month
24 Jan, 2019

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading How Long ‘Til Black Future Month How Long 'til Black Future Month? on November 27, 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Published by Orbit
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

In these stories, Jemisin sharply examines modern society, infusing magic into the mundane, and drawing deft parallels in the fantasy realms of her imagination. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow south must figure out how to save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.

Goodreads

I loved this collection of short stories but it took me forever to read.  I felt like after each one I had to put the book down and let it sink in.  I couldn’t just go onto the next.  I absolutely love this cover.  I remember when this photo series came out.  This one makes a perfect book cover.  

I’ve posted before about the first story The Ones Who Stay and Fight.  That is still my favorite story but there are many other great ideas in this book.

There are children who get chosen to be a sacrifice based on their good grades.  But what happens to them?  Is this a punishment for the kids who have to excel despite the risks or a way to set them free?

Fans can freeze their favorite writers by killing them at the time of their greatest talent so they never disappoint.

Can humans who have escaped a dying Earth fix the environmental damage?  Should they be allowed to try no matter what humans who have remained behind think?

Making deals (and babies) with dragons might not turn out well for anyone but the dragons.  On the other hand, little dragons can help fight off even bigger evil.

There are tales of first contact with alien civilizations and visions of possibly imaginary women dancing in elevators.  There are gods that survive the death of humans.  How do they entertain themselves?

Wars can be fought or prevented with magic.  Maybe, someday, the tenuous connections between people on the internet will be all that there is left.  Then again, maybe if you look hard enough there is a train waiting that can take you anywhere you need to go.

There are stories here that I know Foodies Read participants would love. 

A chef unlocks her ability to make magic with food. 

A restaurant opens that can make the exact meal from any memory.  

 

The Gown
15 Jan, 2019

The Gown

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading

The Gown

The Gown The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson
on December 31, 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

From the internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France comes an enthralling historical novel about one of the most famous wedding dresses of the twentieth century—Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown—and the fascinating women who made it.

“Millions will welcome this joyous event as a flash of color on the long road we have to travel.”—Sir Winston Churchill on the news of Princess Elizabeth’s forthcoming wedding

London, 1947: Besieged by the harshest winter in living memory, burdened by onerous shortages and rationing, the people of postwar Britain are enduring lives of quiet desperation despite their nation’s recent victory. Among them are Ann Hughes and Miriam Dassin, embroiderers at the famed Mayfair fashion house of Norman Hartnell. Together they forge an unlikely friendship, but their nascent hopes for a brighter future are tested when they are chosen for a once-in-a-lifetime honor: taking part in the creation of Princess Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

Toronto, 2016: More than half a century later, Heather Mackenzie seeks to unravel the mystery of a set of embroidered flowers, a legacy from her late grandmother. How did her beloved Nan, a woman who never spoke of her old life in Britain, come to possess the priceless embroideries that so closely resemble the motifs on the stunning gown worn by Queen Elizabeth II at her wedding almost seventy years before? And what was her Nan’s connection to the celebrated textile artist and holocaust survivor Miriam Dassin?

With The Gown, Jennifer Robson takes us inside the workrooms where one of the most famous wedding gowns in history was created. Balancing behind-the-scenes details with a sweeping portrait of a society left reeling by the calamitous costs of victory, she introduces readers to three unforgettable heroines, their points of view alternating and intersecting throughout its pages, whose lives are woven together by the pain of survival, the bonds of friendship, and the redemptive power of love.

Goodreads

I love historical fiction that pulls you in from the beginning. This is the story of two women from very different backgrounds who meet in the embroidery workshop of a dress designer in London immediately after World War II.

Ann is English. She lost her parents before the war and her brother during the Blitz.  She lives with her sister-in-law, trying to scrape by.

Miriam is a French Jew who was in a concentration camp for part of the war.  No one in England knows about this part of her life.  All they know is that she is a skilled embroiderer who worked in a design house in Paris. 

Fast forward to 2016 and a woman in Toronto gets a box of pictures and embroidery from her recently deceased grandmother.  She knew her grandmother was from England but she never talked about her life there.  She also didn’t know how to sew as far as her granddaughter knew.  Why does she have all this?

This is a great story of female friendship and support.  It also shows you the amazing amount of handwork that goes into couture dresses.  I like stories based on unknown women who have had a part, however small, in historical events. 

I had never really looked at the dress before.  It is so detailed with both embroidery and applique.  I can’t imagine doing that day in and day out.  (I hurt my hands just trying to hand sew one quilt.)  They only had a few weeks to get that all finished.  It is amazing. 


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Photo by Natalie Brown/Tangerine Photo

About Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson is the USA Today and #1 Toronto Globe & Mail bestselling author of Somewhere in France, After the War is Over and Moonlight Over Paris. She holds a doctorate from Saint Antony’s College, University of Oxford. She lives in Toronto with her husband and young children.

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

 

 

Blog Tour

Monday, December 31st: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary

Monday, December 31st: Reading Reality

Wednesday, January 2nd: Instagram: @my_book_journey_

Wednesday, January 2nd: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, January 3rd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Friday, January 4th: Into the Hall of Books

Monday, January 7th: BookNAround

Monday, January 7th: InkyMoments

Tuesday, January 8th: Jessicamap Reviews

Wednesday, January 9th: Instagram: @giuliland

Thursday, January 10th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 14th: Instagram: @ciannereads

Tuesday, January 15th: Instagram: @sjwonderlandz

Tuesday, January 15th: Based on a True Story

Wednesday, January 16th: Always With a Book

Wednesday, January 16th: Instagram: @tbretc

Thursday, January 17th: Instagram: @somekindofalibrary

Thursday, January 17th: Doing Dewey

Thursday, January 17th: Instagram: @theunreadshelf

Friday, January 18th: Broken Teepee

Tuesday, January 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life

Friday, January 25th: As I turn the pages

 

The Convalescent Corpse
11 Jan, 2019

The Convalescent Corpse

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Convalescent Corpse The Convalescent Corpse by Nicola Slade
on November 20, 2018
Pages: 223
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.

Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters.

Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all.

And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.

Goodreads

I adored the characters in this story.

  • Granny is a titled lady who was a failed debutante.  (What she did to Queen Victoria sealed her fate.) However, she is an excellent poacher and that has been most useful in keeping the family going during World War I rationing.
  • Mother is a reclusive author who doesn’t function well in the real world so keeping her out of it is the best course of action.
  • Alix is the oldest daughter.  Her twin brother died in the war a few months ago.  She volunteers at the neighboring hospital to get a look at any potential husbands but she hasn’t been impressed yet.
  • Christy is the responsible one who works out a plan to take in lodgers without her mother knowing about it.  She also publishes stories that no one knows she writes. 
  • Addy is a genius who has been kicked out of school again for talking back to the teachers.
  • Father was a con man who came in and out of their lives until he had the decency to sink with the Lusitania three years ago but now it seems that that might have been a con too.

 Even the secondary and background characters are well developed.  I especially liked the detail of the woman who named her children names that she’d seen in the newspaper but never heard pronounced so Nigel is called Niggle and Penelope is Penny-lope.  

When I started reading this book, I didn’t remember what it was supposed to be about and I found that I didn’t really care.  I enjoyed spending time with this family as they navigated the grief over their brother’s death that is just starting to lift a bit and as they find ways to support themselves.  The book is funny and warm with a mystery or two thrown into the mix.  I will definitely look into more books by this author.  


Author Bio – Nicola Slade lives in Hampshire where she writes historical and contemporary mysteries and women’s fiction. While her three children were growing up she wrote stories for children and for women’s magazines before her first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published in 2005. Among other jobs, Nicola has been an antiques dealer and a Brown Owl! She loves travelling and at one time, lived in Egypt for a year. The Convalescent Corpse is Nicola’s 9th novel. Nicola is also a member of a crime writers’ panel, The Deadly Dames 
Social Media Links – www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com www.nicolaslade.com
Twitter: @nicolasladeuk
https://www.facebook.com/nicolasladeuk/ https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703 (I have a board for each book)


Giveaway – Win a paperback copy of The House of Ladywell (Open Internationally)
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Tony’s Wife
03 Jan, 2019

Tony’s Wife

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Tony’s Wife Tony's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
on November 20, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Published by HarperAudio
Format: ARC
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

Set in the lush Big Band era of the 1940s and World War II, this spellbinding saga from beloved New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani tells the story of two talented working class kids who marry and become a successful singing act, until time, temptation, and the responsibilities of home and family derail their dreams

Shortly before World War II, Chi Chi Donatelli and Saverio Armandonada meet one summer on the Jersey shore and fall in love. Both are talented and ambitious, and both share the dream of becoming singers for the legendary orchestras of the time: Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman. They’re soon married, and it isn’t long before Chiara and Tony find that their careers are on the way up as they navigate the glamorous worlds of night clubs, radio and television. All goes well until it becomes clear that they must make a choice: Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career? And how will they cope with the impact that decision has on their lives and their marriage?

From the Jersey shore to Las Vegas to Hollywood, and all the dance halls in between, this multi-layered story is vivid with historical color and steeped in the popular music that serves as its score. Tony’s Wife is a magnificent epic of life in a traditional Italian family undergoing seismic change in a fast paced, modern world. Filled with vivid, funny and unforgettable characters, this richly human story showcases Adriana Trigiani’s gifts as a storyteller and her deep understanding of family, love and the pursuit of the American dream.

Goodreads

You know what you are getting into if you’ve read this author previously.  This is the story of an Italian family told from the time the protagonists are teenagers until their deaths.  The writing is sparse.  Small pieces of time will be discussed in detail and then years will pass between paragraphs.

I was intrigued by the premise, especially this line from the blurb – “Which of them will put their ambitions aside to raise a family and which will pursue a career?”  I was hoping this was going to be a book that discussed the stereotypical gender roles of a post-WWII marriage and possibly subverted them.  My hopes were high as the beginning of the book shows Chi Chi was infinitely more talented and more ambitious than Tony.

All this was swept aside quickly though once the marriage happened.  I’m not even sure why it happened.  I found their “courtship” incredibly uncomfortable as he basically badgers her into giving up her dreams because he decided that he was in love with her when in her mind they were just old friends.  This is followed by affair after affair until a divorce and then she still supports him through several more marriages all the while closing herself off completely to the idea of finding love. 

“Duty-bound love is the Italian girl’s area of expertise.  The Italian woman is a master craftsman at the art of sacrifice.”

I don’t think that this is a good thing.  This story is about a woman who sacrificed everything that she was to a man who couldn’t be bothered to care.  I found it infuriating and ultimately depressing to read about.  I understand that this is much more likely to be historically accurate than a book about people supporting each other in their careers.  That is part of the reason why this book made me so angry.  This is about a time and attitudes that we have hopefully begun to move past. 

About Adriana Trigiani

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

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

White Fragility
20 Dec, 2018

White Fragility

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading White Fragility White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, Michael Eric Dyson
on June 26, 2018
Pages: 169
Genres: Nonfiction, Social Science
Published by Beacon Press
Format: eBook
Source: Library

Groundbreaking book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when discussing racism that serve to protect their positions and maintain racial inequality

Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

Goodreads

This is a very dense book written by a white person detailing why white people get so defensive when talking about race and what can be done about it.  It is a book that I kept highlighting to remember her points.  I actually feel like I need to read it through a second time to really internalize all the points that she was making.  

Some of her important points

White people aren’t used to thinking of themselves in racial terms

 

“the white reference point is assumed to be universal and is imposed on everyone.”

 

I think this is absolutely true.  We tend to think of other people as having a race and we don’t.  We think of backgrounds by nationality instead of just as white yet we lump everyone with African origins as black.

A side effect of not being used to thinking of ourselves as a race is our lack of experience in racial discussions, specifically in difficult discussions.   When things get tough, we tend to panic and shut down the discussion. 

We don’t understand what racism is

That leads to claims reverse racism, which according to the definitions that she uses isn’t possible.

 

“The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all white defensiveness on this topic.”

 

Racism isn’t just a person being mean to another.  It isn’t even just prejudice from one racial group to another.  All groups of humans are prejudiced against others.  Racism is prejudice plus power.  

“When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.”

 

In case that isn’t clear, she gives this example using sexism instead of racism.

“While women could be prejudiced and discriminate against men in individual interactions, women as a group could not deny men their civil rights. But men as a group could and did deny women their civil rights. Men could do so because they controlled all the institutions.”

 

White liberals are the worst to talk to about race

“In the post–civil rights era, we have been taught that racists are mean people who intentionally dislike others because of their race; racists are immoral. Therefore, if I am saying that my readers are racist or, even worse, that all white people are racist, I am saying something deeply offensive; I am questioning my readers’ very moral character.”

 

White people have to get over this defensive reaction if they want to be a productive part of the discussion.

 

“For those of us who work to raise the racial consciousness of whites, simply getting whites to acknowledge that our race gives us advantages is a major effort.”

 

“While making racism bad seems like a positive change, we have to look at how this functions in practice. Within this paradigm, to suggest that I am racist is to deliver a deep moral blow—a kind of character assassination. Having received this blow, I must defend my character, and that is where all my energy will go—to deflecting the charge, rather than reflecting on my behavior.”

 

 

I would recommend this to any white people, even if you think you know all about these topics. 

Dactyl Hill Squad
19 Dec, 2018

Dactyl Hill Squad

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Dactyl Hill Squad Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older
on September 11, 2018
Pages: 272
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: New York

It's 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker.

Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood, where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community--a safe haven from the threats of Manhattan. Together with the Vigilance Committee, they train to fly on dactylback, discover new friends and amazing dinosaurs, and plot to take down Riker. Can Magdalys and the squad rescue the rest of their friends before it's too late?

Goodreads

Do I really need to tell you anything else besides THIS IS A CIVIL WAR STORY WITH DINOSAURS?  Because, honestly, that’s all it took for me.  I mean, ok, it is written by Daniel Jose Older whose adult and YA books I’ve loved.  Why wouldn’t I love his new middle grade series?

The dinosaurs are both all important and just part of the background in this world.  They are used as draft animals.  The big ones function as buses and ferries.  Triceratops pull carts.  The bad guys ride carnivorous dinos.  

This fantasy imagery is set along side a plot inspired by real events.  There was a ring of white businessmen in New York who kidnapped and sold free colored people into slavery.  The colored children’s home did burn in the Draft Riots.  This book imagines what would have happened if the survivors of the fire found their way to a resistance cell and learned to fight back — WITH DINOSAURS! 

I’d recommend this book to anyone because of the imaginative world building and a look at a part of Civil War history that isn’t often discussed, even without there being dinosaurs.  The dinosaur angle would work well to pull in readers who may be reluctant to read a book about the past.  

About Daniel José Older

“Daniel José Older is the author of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series from Penguin’s Roc Books and the Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015). Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa NocturnaHe co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. His short stories and essays have appeared in the Guardian, NPR, Tor.comSalonBuzzFeed, Fireside Fiction, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs around New York and he teaches workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.” – from his website

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

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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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:

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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.”

 

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