Friday, July 1, 2016

ON MY RADAR (7-1-16 edition): Books that have hit my radar...

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

From Annie Proulx—the Pulitzer Prize-­ and National Book Award-­winning author of The Shipping News and “Brokeback Mountain,” comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the world’s forests.

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, RenĂ© Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. RenĂ© suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.

Proulx’s inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid—in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope—that we follow them with fierce attention. Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable and compelling American writers, and Barkskins is her greatest novel, a magnificent marriage of history and imagination.



Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and will live in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising children who will be sent abroad to be educated before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the empire. Esi, imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, will be sold into slavery.

Stretching from the wars of Ghana to slavery and the Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the American South to the Great Migration to twentieth-century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi's novel moves through histories and geographies.



The North Water by Ian McGuire

A nineteenth-century whaling ship sets sail for the Arctic with a killer aboard in this dark, sharp, and highly original tale that grips like a thriller.

Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship's medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.

In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?

With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions.
 



The Hatching by Ezekiel Boone

An astonishingly inventive and terrifying debut novel about the emergence of an ancient species, dormant for over a thousand years, and now on the march.

Deep in the jungle of Peru, where so much remains unknown, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

The world is on the brink of an apocalyptic disaster. An ancient species, long dormant, is now very much awake.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

ARTICLE SHARING: The Minimalist's Bookshelf: 10 Books I'll Never Part With by Joshua Becker

Courtesy of Read it Forward

Read It Forward invited Joshua Becker, self-proclaimed minimalist and author of The More of Less, to provide a list of his top 10 books that he will never part with. He includes some classics, some popular in business and sales, and of course some for the minimalist in all...well, some...of us.

Monday, June 27, 2016

QUICK REVIEW: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Synopsis

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.


Hardcover, 337 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by Atria Books (first published August 27th 2012)
ISBN 1476738017 (ISBN13: 9781476738017)



My Thoughts

Ove (pronounced ooh-vey, to rhyme with you-may) is a grumpy and cantankerous old guy who has a touch of OCD. Everything must be handled in a particular way, and as part of his routine. He can be gruff with people and keeps to himself. 

Then a family moves into the neighborhood, and they seem to be able to overlook his crotchety demeanor. They insert themselves into Ove's life, perhaps against his will. Before he knows it, this family has turned his life upside-down, and Ove is doing things he probably never would have done before.

This is a charming story, reminiscent of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. It disproves the old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Ove is an old dog who definitely learns some new tricks. The author deftly writes the character to make him quite likable by the end of the story, and you can't help but like the family that infiltrates his life.

An easy read. Cute, sweet, and funny.


Buy Now:
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Amazon
IndieBound

My Rating:







The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

This book was the April 2016 selection for the Cape Coral Bookies.

QUICK REVIEW: Dining at the Ravens by Jeff and Joan Stanford

Synopsis

At The Ravens, dinner is more than just a meal. It’s a feast for your spirit.

Located on the Mendocino coast at the only vegan resort in the United States, The Ravens Restaurant at the Stanford Inn by the Sea embodies a mindful, compassionate, and sustainable dining experience in an enchanting and unforgettable setting. Now in Dining at The Ravens, Jeff and Joan Stanford, the Inn and restaurant founders, bring the Ravens culinary experience into your home.

Teeming with beautiful photographs, Dining at The Ravens features more than 150 delicious vegan recipes and shares the charming history of the Inn and restaurant, cooking tips for perfect recipe execution, and even inspiration for creating your own garden.

Discover one of the restaurant’s most popular breakfast dishes, Citrus Polenta with Braised Garden Greens and a Creamy Toasted Cashew Sauce, and many others, such as:

Ravens Sea Palm Strudel
Indian-Spiced Polenta Napoleon
Mushroom Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomato Burger
Ravens Spicy Peanut Curry Sea Palm
Sweet Summer Corn Bisque
Peach Huckleberry Cobbler

Pull up a seat and find out why vegans and non-vegans alike flock to The Ravens for an extraordinary dining experience.



My Thoughts

Jeff and Joan Sanford moved to Mendocino, CA and purchased The Big River Lodge in the early '80s with dreams of creating a "stellar" resort and restaurant. As their family grew, so did their resort and gardens. During this time, Jeff became a vegetarian, and then later a vegan.

In 1997, they opened The Ravens vegan restaurant, and it became a huge hit among vegans and non-vegans alike.

Cue this cookbook. On the plus side, there are a lot of recipes in this book, and a lot of photos (a good thing for someone like me who is visual and needs a cookbook with pictures to entice me)!

However I don't like to see a list of 30 ingredients, such as with the Seasonal Wild Mushroom Crepe. I prefer my recipes simpler for the most part.

Nor do I like having to create several other things in order to make one dish, such as with the Eggplant Cannelloni (which requires you make a batch of Hemp Ricotta and a batch of marinara in order to make the dish).

I'm more for the "fresh" style of food preparation, whereby it's mostly just chopped/sliced veggies, perhaps a grain, a fat like olive oil and some seasoning to make a dish.

So I respect what they were doing here, the way they share their belief system and how The Ravens came to be. I think their recipes will do well to inspire people and show the potential to be found in vegan cooking. It simply isn't my style.


Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
 

My Rating:






The Cerebral Girl is a forty-something blogger just digging her way out from under a mountain of books in the deep south of Florida.

I received a copy of this book to review through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.

Friday, June 24, 2016

ON MY RADAR (6-24-16 edition): Books that have hit my radar

Here are some books that have recently hit my radar and set off my alarm bells...

Mischling by Affinity Konar

"One of the most harrowing, powerful, and imaginative books of the year" (Anthony Doerr) about twin sisters fighting to survive the evils of World War II.

Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past.

Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad.

It's 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.

As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.

That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks--a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin--travel through Poland's devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.

A superbly crafted story, told in a voice as exquisite as it is boundlessly original, MISCHLING defies every expectation, traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope. 



The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage - a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.

Strangers to each other, they have no idea where they are or how they came to be there with eight other girls, forced to wear strange uniforms, their heads shaved, guarded by two inept yet vicious armed jailers and a 'nurse'. The girls all have something in common, but what is it? What crime has brought them here from the city? Who is the mysterious security company responsible for this desolate place with its brutal rules, its total isolation from the contemporary world? Doing hard labour under a sweltering sun, the prisoners soon learn what links them: in each girl's past is a sexual scandal with a powerful man. They pray for rescue - but when the food starts running out it becomes clear that the jailers have also become the jailed. The girls can only rescue themselves.

The Natural Way of Things is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. Most of all, it is the story of two friends, their sisterly love and courage.

With extraordinary echoes of The Handmaid's Tale and Lord of the Flies, The Natural Way of Things is a compulsively readable, scarifying and deeply moving contemporary novel. It confirms Charlotte Wood's position as one of our most thoughtful, provocative and fearless truth-tellers, as she unflinchingly reveals us and our world to ourselves.

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

Girls—their vulnerability, strength, and passion to belong—are at the heart of this stunning first novel for readers of Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides and Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad.
 
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Emma Cline’s remarkable debut novel is gorgeously written and spellbinding, with razor-sharp precision and startling psychological insight. The Girls is a brilliant work of fiction—and an indelible portrait of girls, and of the women they become.



The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A one-in-a-million story for anyone who loves to laugh, cry, and think about how extraordinary ordinary life can be. Not to be missed by readers who loved THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY, ELIZABETH IS MISSING or THE SHOCK OF THE FALL.

Miss Ona Vitkus has - aside from three months in the summer of 1914 - lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.

The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never...

Only it's been two weeks now since he last visited, and she's starting to think he's not so different from all the rest.

Then the boy's father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son's good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life's ambition to complete . . .