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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bouncers and Border Patrol Christianity are perfect descriptions.
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.
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.”
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."
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.
In a lyrical love letter to guide dogs everywhere, a blind poet shares his delightful story of how a guide dog changed his life and helped him discover a newfound appreciation for travel and independence.
At the age of thirty-eight, Stephen Kuusisto—who has managed his whole life without one—gets his first guide dog, a beautiful yellow labrador named Corky. Theirs is a partnership of movement, mutual self-interest, and wanderlust. Walking with Corky in Manhattan for the first time, Steve discovers he’s “living the chaos of joy—you’re in love with your surroundings, loving a barefoot mind, wild to go anyplace.”
Have Dog, Will Travel is the inside story of how a person establishes trust with a dog, how a guide dog is trained. Corky absolutely transforms Steve’s life and his way of being in the world. Profound and deeply moving, theirs is a spiritual journey, during which Steve discovers that joy with a guide dog is both a method and a state of mind. Guaranteed to make you laugh—and cry—this beautiful reflection on the highs, lows, and everyday details that make up life with a guide dog provides a profound exploration of Stephen’s lifelong struggle with disability, identity, and the midlife events that lead to self-acceptance.
The thing that I found absolutely amazing about this memoir is that the author was raised to not let anyone know that he was blind. How do you even do that? There is a very scary story about the time he rented a motor scooter and drove around the mountains in Santorini following the red blob that was his friend.
His mother was adamant that being blind meant that he was defective. He should never let anyone know. That meant memorizing the small towns he lived in. Reading by holding the paper up to his left eye. Living a life made difficult by a disability but almost impossible by a lie. Seriously, his mother needed a good whooping.
At 38 he was forced to make a change. He got his first guide dog. He was now open about his blindness. It changed his entire life.
This book is a tribute to the freedom found in living your true life and the way that is enhanced by his guide dog. The author is a poet and that is obvious in his lyrical writing style. He is a very philosophical person who deeply considers things that others may gloss over.
I appreciated the fact that he discussed the professionalism of real service dogs. He worries about the damage being done by people registering out of control pets as emotional support dogs just so they can take them anywhere. (One of my major pet peeves!) He explains that there still is resistance to and ignorance of guide dogs for the blind now. I wouldn’t have thought it would be so common.
I was a guide dog puppy raiser. (My puppy passed his temperment and training tests but failed his physical.) He talks a lot about the importance of puppy raisers and the trainers who work with the dogs. You find out how the process works.
For the dog lovers, this story starts in 1994. That means that the dog does die before the book was written. It is discussed but not dwelt on.
This is a wonderful book for dog lovers everywhere. All dogs can change your life but Corky the labrador revolutionized her person’s.
Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. After spending the first seven years of her life with her loving mother in the forest caves outside São Paulo and then on the city streets, where they begged for food, she and her younger brother were suddenly put up for adoption. When one door closed on the only life Christiana had ever known and on the woman who protected her with all her heart, a new one opened.
As Christina Rickardsson, she’s raised by caring adoptive parents in Sweden, far from the despairing favelas of her childhood. Accomplished and outwardly “normal,” Christina is also filled with rage over what she’s lost and having to adapt to a new reality while struggling with the traumas of her youth. When her world falls apart again as an adult, Christina returns to Brazil to finally confront her past and unlock the truth of what really happened to Christiana Mara Coelho.
This is a heartbreaking story of a child living in extreme poverty on the streets in Brazil. The things that happen to her are horrific including witnessing the murder of her best friend by the police, seeing numerous rapes, and killing another child in a fight over food.
Because this all happened as a child she didn’t clearly know or remember the reasons why they lived like they did. All she knew was that her mother loved her and her little brother but that there were also times when she wasn’t around. The children were taken to an orphanage where they were eventually not allowed to have contact with their mother and then were adopted by a couple from Sweden. Nothing that was going on was explained to her.
As an adult she decides to go back to Brazil to try to find her mother and to find out what really happened to make sense of her childhood memories.
She examines the disconnect she feels about being grateful for her good life in Sweden that wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t forcibly taken from her mother but also being angry about being separated from the person who loved her.
The book is very simply written or translated. That makes it a very stark read. It is very sad but I think it is necessary to know what is going on in the poorest parts of society. Once again in reading this book I was struck by how often male sexual violence towards women and children is considered to be an everyday thing. I hate knowing that there are women who have to submit to being raped because they are told that it is her or her child. Books like this just make me want to have a moratorium on men for a while.
‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’
As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.
When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.
Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.
One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.
What would you do if you had to leave your home in a few hours? Could you leave your animals behind knowing that animals left on other farms had been killed? That was one of the issues facing farmers in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe’s government instituted a series of land seizures.
The Retzlaff family didn’t leave Zimbabwe right away like many of the other white farmers they knew did. They moved farm to farm but the chaos followed them. As they moved across the country over a series of years, they collected animals. Eventually, they moved to the neighboring country of Mozambique.
I imagine that this is a book that could have a hard time finding an audience. Readers who care more deeply about people than animals might be offended by the effort and resources that went into moving and housing the horses when so many people were suffering. Horse lovers don’t like to read books where horses are mistreated. Horse lovers do need to be warned. Most of the horses you meet in this book don’t survive until the end. Many bad things happen to them regardless of the efforts of the Retzlaffs.
Another issue in this book is historical accuracy versus personal experience. Reading the book, the land reform movement seems to come on suddenly. I’ve been looking a bit more into the history because I assumed that there had to have been some colonial shenanigans that resulted in all these large landowners being white people. Yes, Rhodesia (the former name of Zimbabwe) had favored whites in land distribution. The black population was put onto the least productive land.
“Following Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, land legislation was again amended with the Rhodesian Land Tenure Act of 1969. The Land Tenure Act upended the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and was designed to rectify the issue of insufficient land available to the rapidly expanding black population. It reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 45 million acres and reserved another 45 million acres for black ownership, introducing parity in theory; however, the most fertile farmland in Regions I, II, and III continued to be included in the white enclave. Abuses of the system continued to abound; some white farmers took advantage of the legislation to shift their property boundaries into land formerly designated for black settlement, often without notifying the other landowners.”
“In 1977, the Land Tenure Act was amended by the Rhodesian parliament, which further reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 200,000 hectares, or 500,000 acres. Over 15 million hectares were thus opened to purchase by persons of any race.Two years later, as part of the Internal Settlement, Zimbabwe Rhodesia‘s incoming biracial government under Bishop Abel Muzorewa abolished the reservation of land according to race. White farmers continued to own 73.8% of the most fertile land suited for intensive cash crop cultivation and livestock grazing, in addition to generating 80% of the country’s total agricultural output.”
“The Lancaster House Agreement  stipulated that farms could only be taken from whites on a “willing buyer, willing seller” principle for at least ten years. White farmers were not to be placed under any pressure or intimidation, and if they decided to sell their farms they were allowed to determine their own asking prices”
“Between April 1980 and September 1987, the acreage of land occupied by white-owned commercial farms was reduced by about 20%.” – all quoted from Wikipedia
Ok, so they can’t say they didn’t know this was coming. They talk a little about the politics of it and how they weren’t paying any attention. They mention the vote on a referendum in 2000 only because their black workers asked to borrow transportation so they could all vote. It was the day before voting and they hadn’t really considered it?
“The government organised a referendum on the new constitution in February 2000, despite having a sufficiently large majority in parliament to pass any amendment it wished. Had it been approved, the new constitution would have empowered the government to acquire land compulsorily without compensation. Despite vast support in the media, the new constitution was defeated, 55% to 45%.” Wikipedia
It was after this failed that the government started to encourage mob violence to steal land without compensation. I understand that they were both born and raised in Africa and felt protected because they legally owned their land but the writing was on the wall. Things were about to get ugly and they were completely unprepared.
What happened as a result of the seizure of white-owned farms was a complete disaster. They were given as gifts to friends and family of powerful people who didn’t know the first thing about farming. Zimbabwe’s economy was based on farming and when the farms collapsed it collapsed. So no one is saying that this was a good and just plan but it couldn’t have been completely unexpected.
There are also some other statements that come across as very colonial. One time when they move to a new farm she discusses her family moving into the farm house and then talks about her workers settling into the huts around the property. She also has this quote – “John’s was a good old-fashioned cattle ranch of the kind the first pioneers in this part of the world had kept.” Sure, they were the first people in the area if you ignore millennia of existence before then. The author has commented negatively on reviews on Goodreads that bring up these aspects of the book. That’s never a good look.
As a horse person I wish there were more details. They talk about sometimes transporting horses in trucks. Where did the trucks come from? How many trips did you make? How many horses did you have at any given time? The synopsis refers to over 300 but the book doesn’t talk about that number. How are you affording all this?
What happened to this family is bad. But I can’t muster 100% sympathy for them. I would have liked to see a bit more self awareness. This book would have benefited from including the perspectives of the black workers who traveled with them. A few of these people are mentioned once or twice by name but generally they are described as a faceless group of grooms. That’s a big oversight in a book that describes many different white horse owners in detail.
A young man’s moving story of war, friendship, and hope in which he recounts his harrowing escape from a brutal civil war in Yemen with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media by a small group of interfaith activists in the West.
Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.
Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.
Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.
The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.
I didn’t know much about the causes of the war in Yemen until I read this book. It still doesn’t make much sense to me because it boils down to “Those people look different than us and think differently than us.” It is that kind of mindset that Mohammed Al Samawi was working against prior to the war.
The stars of this story of the activists around the world who play a high stakes game of Six Degrees of Separation. Who do you know? Who do they know? Can you get one man from Aden to Africa?
What struck me while reading this is the problems that are caused by Yemen’s patriarchy/toxic combination of masculinity and religion:
The whole conflict could be put down to this
He was unable to shelter with his uncle’s family because his uncle wouldn’t let him in the house where his unmarried female cousins lived. How messed up is that? Your nephew is alone in an apartment in a war zone but you won’t take him in because you assume he wouldn’t be able to sexually control himself around his female relatives?
Because he was male he was completely unprepared to live on his own without women to care for him. He moved to Aden and was living alone. He ate out daily since he didn’t cook so he had minimal food and supplies in the house when all the shops closed down.
After he was out of Yemen due to the help of a group of interfaith activists he was still too afraid to tell him mother (still living in a war zone) that he had been talking to Jews.
I found the beginning of this book with his entry into interfaith dialogue more interesting than the story of his escape from Yemen. I think that is partially because the writing is very plain. It reads like “This happened and then this happened and then this happened…” Secondly, I mostly just wanted to shake the guy. This is not a heroic memoir. Mohammed Al Samawi isn’t brave. He isn’t very good at planning. He moves from Sanaa to Aden but neglects to bring his passport even though he travels for work. These things all make trying to flee the country harder. He uses the distraction of a Northern man like himself being publicly tortured to death in the street by Al Qaeda to escape from his apartment while wondering why no one tries to help that man. He even refers to himself occasionally as a man-child. He was in his late 20s in 2015 when this happened.
In the end there were so many different lobbying efforts going on that it is not clear who succeeded in getting the order given to let him on the ship from Aden to Djibouti. I wish this had been investigated. It seems to be a very strange thing not to know who allowed his transport in a book about arranging his transport.
In the absence of facts, he falls back on the idea that God arranged his rescue. While comforting for religious people, this makes nonreligious people want to pull their hair out. Basically he saying that his God ignored everyone else stuck in a war (about religion and power) to concentrate on giving him special attention. It also diminishes all the hard work that people did on his behalf.
The deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.
In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.
In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to "the good life." Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums. Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. While not everyone wants to live in the woods, or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.
Debt-free living is a topic that is very important to me so I jumped at the chance to review this book from TLC Book Tours. (Free book – Look at me being frugal!)
This is a memoir of a couple who used frugality to save enough to retire to the country in their 30s. They have a blog called frugalwoods.com. I hadn’t ever heard of this before so I went into this book with no preconceived notions about what their story was.
I appreciated the fact that the book starts with a discussion of privilege versus systemic causes of poverty in the United States. She realizes that just by being born to married, educated white parents in the suburbs of the Midwest that she got a leg up towards being able to be debt-free in her 30s. She points out that her frugality is elective instead of a requirement to be able to afford her rent.
I wish this was more of a how-to book. It doesn’t really explain how they became debt-free. She says things like she saved $2000 of the $10,000 she was given as an AmeriCorp stipend. She was living in Brooklyn with roommates but how did she manage to do that? I want charts and spreadsheets. She talks later about merging living expenses by moving in with her fiance and living below their means by not trying to keep up with the standard of living of their peers. She says that even before they really committed to saving a lot of money in order to retire early, they were saving 40-50% of their take home pay not including 401K and mortgage principal. This is where I started to feel pretty inadequate reading this book. We’re debt-free but we are not even close to that kind of savings. (I know the problem. I eat out too much. If I cooked every meal at home, I’d be golden. I need to make myself a challenge or something.)
I feel like reader’s reactions to this book will be influenced by where they are on their financial journey. I can see her story of giving up $120 hair cuts seeming flippant to someone who is struggling to buy groceries. At the same time, I can see it being inspirational to people who have the ability to start saving money. I could also see it being frustrating and making people feel like they haven’t been doing enough to secure their financial future. I’d be interested to see how people respond to the message.
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives. For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently? These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.
As soon as I heard about this book I knew that it was a book I needed to read. I turn into a tower of rage whenever I hear “Where were their parents?” in response to a teenager committing a crime. I feel this because I know that someday this accusation is going to leveled at me concerning my stepdaughter.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t read this book to get into the mind of a mass murderer. I wanted tips about what to do after a child commits a crime. Knowing that I wanted this felt awkward so while reading this book I broached the subject with my husband.
Me: “So…… I’m reading Sue Klebold’s book about the aftermath of Columbine. I sort of wanted to know what you do after a crime.”
Him: “Yeah. (long pause) So what did you find out?”
Me: “Lawyer up and grab the pets and go into hiding with relatives who don’t share your unusual last name.”
Him: Looks concerned at me while we contemplate our very unusual last name. We’re screwed.
The Klebolds had a very different experience than parents of mentally ill children do. She addresses this at one point.
“I have heard many terrible stories of good peoplestruggling to parent seriously ill, violent kids. I have nothing but compassion for them, and feel we must rehabilitate a health care system that too often leaves them out in the cold. If you want to feel sick to your stomach, listen to a mom tell you about the day her volatile ten-year-old narrowly missed stabbing her with the kitchen shears, and how it felt to call the police on him because she was worried the lock on his younger sister’s bedroom door wouldn’t hold against his rage. Too often, parents of seriously disturbed kids are forced to get the criminal justice system involved—even though it is drastically ill-equipped to manage brain illness—simply because there is nowhere else to turn.”
One thing I was surprisingly shocked to read was how many lawsuits were filed against the families of the shooters. It wasn’t like they helped their kids stockpile weapons and then drove them to the school. How were they at fault? I think it is a sad commentary on our society feeling like someone has to take the blame for anything that happens and if the people responsible are dead, then the victim’s families just wanted someone else to blame. There are excerpts of letters written to her by parents of the victims years later blaming her for not talking publicly so people could see if she was showing enough remorse. They talk about wanting to know if she has learned anything. This hounding from the victims’ families is part of the reason she wrote this book. The proceeds are all being donated to mental health research.
I found Sue Klebold’s descriptions of herself and her parenting to be an example of the type of parent that drives me to exasperation. It is the overinvolved yet absolutely clueless type. These are the perky women who tell you that they have a great family and will fight to the death to uphold their belief that their precious little munchkin would never do anything wrong while you know that their child is the local drug dealer. I’ve known a few of these types of mothers. They are exhausting. I switched halfway through the book from audio to ebook because listening to her talk about the time before the shooting was irritating. I understand it though. The parents’ letters ask if she ever hugged her child or had a sit down meal with him. People want to think that if they do everything “right” then their child will never commit a crime. She admits that she thought like this too until her son went on a rampage.
Few of these parents ever have their illusions shattered as horrifically as this author did. But she admits that she was able to shield herself from hearing anything about the crime for months so she was able to persist in her denial that her child did anything wrong. She convinced herself that he was drugged or kidnapped or really a victim or was being threatened with danger to his family. She was willing to believe anything except that he was a killer. She persisted in this belief until the police laid out their whole case for them about 4 months after the murders. Here is a horrible example of how she tried to justify her thinking.
“This wasn’t the drug-riddled inner city, or some supposedly godless corridor like New York or Los Angeles.“
Her solutions are jarring. They are based in the idea that parents should know everything about their children. She is obviously an extrovert who says that she loves to talk about issues. If only you could force your children to tell you everything, you could prevent problems. I can feel my poor little introvert soul shrinking when she talks about this.
“I’ve even imagined barricading myself in his room, refusing to leave until he tells me what he’s thinking.“
She advocates searching rooms to find hidden journals or papers. She says this knowing that her son hid weapons and bombs from her while she was actively searching his room. They hid things so well that the police didn’t even find some of the hiding spots until they watched videos Dylan and Eric had left behind explaining how they had hid everything. If a kid doesn’t want you to know something, you aren’t going to know it.
She brushes over the practical aftermath of the shootings for her family in one paragraph. Basically, they were sued over and over and over and lost their house and went bankrupt for a crime they didn’t commit. They also eventually divorced after 43 years of marriage because she is active in suicide prevention and he wanted to leave all of this in the past.
I think she dismisses the bullying that Dylan and Eric had at school too much. She doesn’t talk about it much at all. Other sources have talked about how toxic Columbine High School was. I did appreciate this statement in the book.
“Larkin also points to proselytizing and intimidation by evangelical Christian students, a self-appointed moral elite who perceived the kids who dressed differently as evil and targeted them.“
So much was made after Columbine in evangelical circles about the targeting of Christian kids. It was used as proof that the shooters were evil. Maybe the Christian community also needed to look at the behavior of their kids.
That’s ultimately the point of this story. Everyone wants to demonize the parents of murderous kids because if you find the thing they did wrong, then it won’t happen to your family. No one wants to admit that that isn’t the case. Until society admits that it could happen to anyone, real help won’t happen.
Andrew Schulman, a fifty-seven-year-old professional guitarist, had a close brush with death on the night of July 16, 2009. Against the odds—with the help of music—he survived: A medical miracle.
Once fully recovered, Andrew resolved to dedicate his life to bringing music to critically ill patients at Mount Sinai Beth Israel’s ICU. In Waking the Spirit, you’ll learn the astonishing stories of the people he’s met along the way—both patients and doctors—and see the incredible role music can play in a modern hospital setting.
In his new work as a medical musician, Andrew has met with experts in music, neuroscience, and medicine. In this book, he shares with readers an overview of the cutting-edge science and medical theories that illuminate this exciting field.
This book explores the power of music to heal the body and awaken the spirit.
Andrew Schulman was a professional classical guitarist. He went into the hospital to have a biopsy but an allergic reaction to medication while in surgery led to him spending time in a coma in the surgical ICU. He was nonresponsive to anything until his wife started playing his favorite playlist of music for him. After his recovery, he started to research the links between music and healing. He also returned to the surgical ICU three days a week to play for an hour.
I’ve been lurking on some music therapy harp groups on Facebook. I like the types of music that these musicians seem to play and I was actually looking for good sources of music for relaxing harp pieces. I know a lot of it is improv. In this book, Andrew Schulman does some improv but finds himself mostly playing three types of music – Bach, Gershwin, and The Beatles.
There are a lot of stories in the book that show how small of a world the New York music world must be. He meets family members of composers, Gershwin scholars, and people who performed on his favorite recordings. Along the way he is shocked to find that he starts to heal the brain damage that his time in a coma caused.
I liked the incorporation of the science along with the stories. He will talk about seeing music calm pain responses and then will get a scientific opinion on why that works.
You’ll finish this book believing that Bach should be playing in every recovery unit in the hospital. Even if you don’t play an instrument, this is an uplifting story about how the body can heal itself and how not every medical intervention needs to be using drugs.
From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors' story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.
The phrase “When They Call You A Terrorist” refers to two episodes in the author’s life:
When Black Lives Matter is referred to as a terrorist group by people who oppose them
When her mentally ill older brother was charged with terrorism for yelling at a person during a traffic accident
This memoir focuses more on her life leading up to the founding of Black Lives Matter than the aftermath. It tells the story of living in a community that is very heavily policed. When her brother starts showing signs of mental illness his interactions with the police increase. He is taken away and no one is able to find out where he is for months despite constant searching. He isn’t treated but just medicated to keep him quiet. He is repeatedly beaten by the police.
I immediately compare this to police treatment of my mentally ill step daughter. She’s 14. She has been repeatedly restrained by the police both at schools and at home because of her violence. She has sent adults to the hospital. She has destroyed property. The police will not ALLOW her to be charged with a crime despite multiple requests because “she has a diagnosis.” Wanna guess the other differences between her and the author’s brother besides access to healthcare to get a diagnosis? Yeah, she’s white and lives in an affluent suburb.
I’m not sure how so many white people can continue to think that unequal policing doesn’t exist. Even if you aren’t involved in a situation that highlights it, so many videos exist. It has to be just willful ignorance to deny the evidence.
The author helped organize a bus trip into Ferguson after Mike Brown’s death. A church was offered as a staging place for the 600 people coming in. I thought about that for a while. My brother works at a church that would be perfect for that sort of thing. It is right off the interstate. It has a huge parking lot that could hold a lot of buses. There is a school attached so maybe there are locker rooms so people could shower. Then I laughed and laughed. I can’t imagine a white majority church EVER opening their doors to a protest group. They’d have to fight about it in committee and through the church gossip networks for months before they could even begin to make a highly contested decision. Then the pastor would be fired.
My mental tangents aside, this book is ultimately about the power of love and what it looks like to try to live out that love in the real world. It is a short, lyrical book that can help open people’s eyes to the needs in communities that have adversarial relationships with police.
Carolyn Jourdan had it all: the Mercedes Benz, the fancy soirees, the best clothes. She moved in the most exclusive circles in Washington, D.C., rubbed elbows with big politicians, and worked on Capitol Hill. As far as she was concerned, she was changing the world.
And then her mother had a heart attack. Carolyn came home to help her father with his rural medical practice in the Tennessee mountains. She'd fill in for a few days as the receptionist until her mother could return to work. Or so she thought. But days turned into weeks.
Her job now included following hazmat regulations for cleaning up bodily fluids; maintaining composure when confronted with a splinter the size of a steak knife; distinguishing between a "pain," a "strain," and a "sprain" on indecipherable Medicare forms; and tending to the loquacious Miss Hiawatha, whose daily doctor visits were never billed.
At first glance this is a funny memoir of life in a small town medical office. Stories of men who try to operate on themselves or get injured doing ill advised things abound. There are also heart breaking stories of the deaths of beloved patients and friends. If you like stories full of small town characters, this would be a great read for you.
On a deeper level though, I found it quite disturbing. The author’s father is a doctor. He has a practice with one nurse and his wife is the receptionist/office manager. His wife is unpaid for this more than full time job. She also has a doctorate but has spent her life doing unpaid work to support her husband’s job. When she gets sick her daughter comes home to take over her job. Her daughter is a lawyer working for a Senator and is an expert on U.S. nuclear policy. She gives up that job to become her father’s unpaid helper. The reason they can’t hire anyone else is that the practice doesn’t make enough money to support a paid receptionist. So now you have two highly educated women who have given up their careers to support this practice and you are denying a job to a person in the community who could be a fine receptionist if the job was paid.
The reason the practice isn’t making any money is because the patients are too poor to pay for healthcare. Now we get into the failures of the U.S. health care system. Unfortunately, that isn’t what people tend to take from memoirs like this. They see a fine doctor who cares enough not to charge for services if people can’t pay. That’s admirable but not sustainable. If you can’t pay to keep the electric on, then the community loses its only health provider.
(This is a touchy subject for me. I work in a low cost, walk in veterinary clinic in a poor area. I am basically living this doctor’s life in the veterinary world but with better staffing and hours. People come in and regale us with tales of TV shows they’ve seen where the vet cares so much about animals that they don’t charge people. The implication being that if we do charge, then we don’t care. We just nod because no one wants an economics lesson or to hear about my massive pay cut to work here or the fact that the owner isn’t getting paid yet because the clinic just opened…)
The answer for communities like this is to find a better way for people to afford health care, not to emulate this model. It isn’t possible moving forward. Student debt is too high for newer doctors to be able to afford to live on what a practice like this makes. I looked at buying a practice like this once. The vet was making about $100,000 a year being on call 24/7. I wasn’t willing to do that because that type of stress will kill you and once you figured in paying back a loan to buy the practice and doing some way past due maintenance to the building, I would have almost been paying to work there. I had been out of school long enough not to have any student loans left. If I had had the debt of today’s graduates, I could never have even considered it.
So, yeah, the book is cute and funny and sweet as long as you don’t look too closely at why a practice like this is needed.
You've heard the stories about the dark side of the internet-hackers, anonymous hoards attacking an unlucky target, and revenge porn-but they remain just that: stories. Surely these things would never happen to you.
Zoe Quinn used to feel the same way. Zoe is a video game developer whose ex-boyfriend published a crazed blog post cobbled together from private information, half-truths, and outright fictions, along with a rallying cry to the online hordes to go after her. The hordes answered in the form of a so-called movement known as #gamergate--they hacked her accounts, stole nude photos of her, harassed her family, friends and colleagues, and threatened to rape and murder her. But instead of shrinking into silence as the online mobs wanted her to, she has raised her voice and speaks out against this vicious online culture and for making the internet a safer place for everyone.
If you’ve been on Twitter any time at all you’re familiar with Gamergate. (Side note – Can we please stop naming everything -gate? It is so annoying.)
This is Zoe Quinn’s story from the day that she found out that her ex boyfriend had written a manifesto against her and the death threats started. They escalated and quickly included threatening items like pictures taken outside her apartment. Out of her frustration at not being better able to protect herself, she founded Crash Override to help others who have found themselves in similar situations.
This book is part memoir and part primer on how to better protect yourself online. It would benefit people who worry about online security and those who think that women are overreacting to online threats. It is a reminder of the lengths that people will go to to hurt strangers online. She also talks to former trolls to see what the mindset is behind that behavior.
From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Starsby Virginia Hanlon Grohl on April 25, 2017
While the Grohl family had always been musical—the family sang together on long car trips, harmonizing to Motown and David Bowie—Virginia never expected her son to become a musician, let alone a rock star. But when she saw him perform in front of thousands of screaming fans for the first time, she knew that rock stardom was meant to be for her son. And as Virginia watched her son's star rise, she often wondered about the other mothers who raised sons and daughters who became rock stars. Were they as surprised as she was about their children's fame? Did they worry about their children's livelihood and wellbeing in an industry fraught with drugs and other dangers? Did they encourage their children's passions despite the odds against success, or attempt to dissuade them from their grandiose dreams? Do they remind their kids to pack a warm coat when they go on tour?
Have you ever had your mother reminisce about spending time with your friends’/teammates’ moms while waiting for you to get done doing sports or plays or whatever you were into? Imagine instead of talking about what she did on the sidelines of your soccer game, she was talking about what she got up to with Kurt Cobain’s mom on the Nevermind tour. That’s the spirit of this book.
She interviews moms of musicians from all genres and at all stages of their careers. Some are still performing. Some have retired or moved into other aspects of the business. Others are moms of musicians who didn’t survive their fame. She asks what they remember, how they nurtured their kids, and what they wished they had done differently.
The book is fun because she still is enthusiastic about her son’s career and always talks about it like a proud mom. She talks about the kids getting back together when Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She always refers to her son as “David.” She still gets starstruck like when she got to meet Paul McCartney and her friends couldn’t get her to shut up about it.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
For Bill Fulton, being a soldier was his identity. He was called to protect and serve. So when the Army wanted to send him to Alaska, he went—they had never steered him wrong, after all.
After an involuntary medical discharge, Fulton was adrift until he started a military surplus store in Anchorage, where he also took on fugitive recovery missions. He was back on his feet, working with other badasses and misfits he considered brothers. He took pride in his business, with a wife and daughters at home. His life was happy and full.
But when a customer revealed he planned to attack a military recruiting station, Fulton had to make a choice: turn a blind eye and hope for the best or risk his safety, his reputation, and his business by establishing contact with his customers’ arch nemesis: the FBI.
He chose the latter, and his life changed forever.
The beginning of this book sounded familiar to me – like really, really familiar. Like the author, all my husband ever wanted to do was be a soldier until he was physically unable to do it any more. He was also in Alaska for a while. Their stories were so similar that I made him start listening to the audiobook too. He totally identified.
After the Army is where their paths diverged. The author opened a bouncing service that grew into a military surplus store and then a bounty hunting group while giving jobs to veterans who were having a hard time readjusting to civilian life. All of it came crashing down after he decided to help the FBI expose a militia in Fairbanks that had a plan to kill judges and their families. No good deed goes unpunished.
This book alternates between being really funny and being extremely horrifying.
It helps you get into the mindset of people who are convinced that the government is coming after them. There are people who think that hit squads have been sent after them so they have booby trapped their houses. None of them tend to be important enough for anyone to take notice of until they lay out their plans to “defend themselves” in paramilitary style. Even worse are those who are going to strike first before the government comes for them.
One of the most frustrating parts for me to read was when the author was being vilified by the left-leaning journalists he admired because of a run-in with an unidentified journalist while he was working security. Later when it became known that he was an FBI informant the media got his story all wrong again. He couldn’t defend himself either time. It has to be frustrating to be being talked about on TV when people have the basic facts and motivations for your actions wrong and make no attempt to talk to you and find out the facts. Hopefully, this book helps set the record straight.
Things I had confirmed while reading this book:
Living in Alaska isn’t for me
There are some really paranoid people out there and they have guns
Veterans need a welcoming, nonjudgmental space like his store became
Make sure you have your facts right before condemning people
This is a book that I would recommend for everyone. The topics discussed are important and aren’t covered enough.
Bill Fulton narrates his own story. He does a good job for an author-narrator.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
A beautifully written food memoir chronicling one cook's journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the intoxicating world of New York City fine dining and back again in search of her culinary roots.
Before Amy Thielen frantically plated rings of truffled potatoes in some of New York City s finest kitchens for chefs David Bouley, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten she grew up in a northern Minnesota town home to the nation s largest French fry factory, the headwaters of the fast food nation, with a mother whose generous cooking pulsed with joy, family drama, and an overabundance of butter.
Inspired by her grandmother s tales of cooking on the family farm, Thielen moves with her artist husband to the rustic, off-the-grid cabin he built in the woods. There, standing at the stove three times a day, she finds the seed of a growing food obsession that leads to the sensory madhouse of New York s top haute cuisine brigades. When she goes home, she comes face to face with her past, and a curious truth: that beneath every foie gras sauce lies a rural foundation of potatoes and onions, and that taste memory is the most important ingredient of all.
I spent a good portion of this memoir wondering why I listen to books like this. It is no secret that I like foodie books but why do I listen to books where the lovingly drawn out descriptions of the food make me think, “Oh my god, that sounds disgusting!”
I’m not sure I found an answer to that. I guess that will be the lot of wanna-be vegans who listen to chef memoirs. You’ve been warned if descriptions of organ meats and loving talk of bloody juices and fond rememberances of torturing live lobsters bother you.
Amy Thielen was an English major before becoming a chef and it shows in this memoir. The writing is of a more literary quality than a lot of memoirs.
This book starts with the story of how she and her husband started to live a seasonal existence. In the summer they were in their off-the-grid cabin in Minnesota with a huge garden and in the winter they lived in New York. This part of the book ends with their decision to move back to Minnesota full time.
The next part of the book goes back in time for a series of essays about events that take place before the first section. You never find out what happened after the move back from New York. I had never heard of the author prior to reading this book so I wasn’t sure what happened besides writing this book. I guess you are either expected to know that or expected to Google.
I was most fascinated by the story of her husband who actually managed to make a good living as a working artist in New York. I thought that was a fairy tale. The story of making a home in the woods was amazing to me.
The author narrates the audiobook which is normally a horrible decision but she did a very good job. She infuses her story with a lot of emotion as she reads.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect. It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.It's a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.
This book answers the question that so many people had – How did this man:
turn into this man?
Al Franken was best known as a writer for Saturday Night Live when he announced his candidacy for Senate in his home state of Minnesota. His candidacy was treated as a joke but he was very serious. He had written several books on political topics and had been hosting a three hour daily political radio show that taught him a lot about issues. He had campaigned for Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone prior to Wellstone’s death in a plane crash. When the Republican senator who took over Wellstone’s senate seat said that he was a 99% improvement over Democrat Wellstone, Franken decided that someone had to defeat that guy. He just didn’t realize yet that it was going to be him.
This memoir was very well done. It talked just a bit about his childhood and then moved quickly into his life as a satirical writer. This is important because as he says he spent 35 years learning to be funny professionally and the next decade learning not to be. He calls the Republican plan for dealing with him “The Dehumorizer”. Just assume that everything he ever wrote was absolute truth and not a joke – up to and including shooting elderly people over a river in a rocket. Turn that into “Franken hates the elderly” and you get the idea. It wasn’t like he hadn’t given them huge amounts of easy material to work with. He did write a story for Playboy called “Pornorama” after all.
Once he got into the Senate by winning the closest election in Senate history, he started working to prove that he was there work and not be a clown. What do Senators do every day? He discusses in detail how bills are made into laws; what compromises to do you have to make to get things done? He talks about working with people you totally disagree with in order to get laws passed. He tells what it is like to grill people you like personally but don’t want to get a cabinet position (Jeff Sessions). And there is a whole chapter on why everyone hates Ted Cruz. He also discusses what needs to be done now in the age of Trump.
Franken lets out a little of the vitriol that he needs to keep inside during his day job. There is more humor than he is allowed to show at work. Apparently he is only allowed by his staff to speak freely in car between events. I’d love to hear what actually happens in the car.
Franken reads the audiobook himself so you can feel the ideas that he is passionate about and feel his anguish at having funny lines in his head that he isn’t allowed to say.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to know what it is really like to be a Senator. Now I’m watching the news and seeing the people who he spoke about in the book in a new light.
Importance of Topic
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Critically acclaimed, award-winning British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard details his childhood, his first performances on the streets of London, his ascent to worldwide success on stage and screen, and his comedy shows which have won over audiences around the world.
Over the course of a thirty-year career, Eddie Izzard has proved himself to be a creative chameleon, inhabiting the stage and film and television screen with an unbelievable fervor. Born in Yemen and raised in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England, he lost his mother at the age of six—a devastating event that affected the rest of his life. In his teens, he dropped out of university and took to the streets of London as part of a comedy double act. When his partner went on vacation, Izzard kept busy by inventing a one-man escape act, and thus a solo career was ignited. As a stand-up comedian, Izzard has captivated audiences with his surreal, stream-of-consciousness comedy— lines such as “Cake or Death?” “Death Star Canteen,” and “Do You Have a Flag?” have the status of great rock lyrics. As a self-proclaimed “action transvestite,” Izzard broke a mold performing in makeup and heels, and has become as famous for his “total clothing” rights as he has for his art. In Believe Me, he recounts the dizzying rise he made from the streets of London to West End theaters, to Wembley Arena, Madison Square Garden, and the Hollywood Bowl.
I’m a huge Eddie Izzard fan. That’s a requirement for listening to this audiobook. If you think he is slightly funny or if you aren’t really sure if you know who he is, read the book but don’t listen to the audio yet. I’ve never experienced an audiobook quite like this. I think it is an audiobook that only could have been made by Eddie Izzard.
He is reading his book but he keeps getting distracted. The tape just keeps rolling as he goes off on tangents – things that he remembers about what he was talking about in the book but didn’t write down; new things that have happened since he wrote the book; or just things that have popped into his head that are more interesting right now than the printed words of the book. These include asking questions of the audio engineers and getting out his cell phone to Google the answer to questions he has. When he realizes how far afield he’s gone, he signals that he’s heading back to the text by saying, “End…Of…Footnote.” I’m going to use that phrase from now on to close any rambling monologue I have.
Even as a fan I was bored by the beginning of the book. His mother died when he was six and he was sent off to boarding school. This is important but all the details of his childhood were not necessary. I wanted to hear about how he got started performing and his later life. Once he got to these sections, I was much more interested.
One thing I was curious about when picking up his book was hearing how he discusses his gender identity. He’s famous for his “Executive Transvestite” routine. I always think of this when people on Twitter get angry about the use of the term transvestite. Eddie came out publicly in 1985. He still uses the terms transvestite and transgender interchangeably when referring to himself. I think of him as a person out living his life openly in public while others are fighting over terminology that he doesn’t care about. I think if he was coming out now he would most likely be identified by others as genderfluid based on his descriptions of his life.
He’s an amazing person who has performed standup all over the world in several different languages, has raised millions for charity by running insane amounts of marathons back to back, and has had many serious dramatic roles in TV shows and movies. He still thinks that he is a boring person who has made a choice to try to make himself more interesting by getting out and doing things. You could do worse.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: