Thursday, February 4, 2016

ON MY RADAR (2/4/16): Books that have hit my radar

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

An Unrestored Woman by Shobha Rao

In her mesmerizing debut, Shobha Rao recounts the untold human costs of one of the largest migrations in history.

1947: the Indian subcontinent is partitioned into two separate countries, India and Pakistan. And with one decree, countless lives are changed forever.

An Unrestored Woman explores the fault lines in this mass displacement of humanity: a new mother is trapped on the wrong side of the border; a soldier finds the love of his life but is powerless to act on it; an ambitious servant seduces both master and mistress; a young prostitute quietly, inexorably plots revenge on the madam who holds her hostage. Caught in a world of shifting borders, Rao’s characters have reached their tipping points.

In paired stories that hail from India and Pakistan to the United States, Italy, and England, we witness the ramifications of the violent uprooting of families, the price they pay over generations, and the uncanny relevance these stories have in our world today.


Shelter by Jung Yun

Why should a man care for his parents when they failed to take care of him as a child?

Kyung Cho is a young father burdened by a house he can’t afford. For years, he and his wife, Gillian, have lived beyond their means. Now their debts and bad decisions are catching up with them, and Kyung is anxious for his family’s future.

A few miles away, his parents, Jin and Mae, live in the town’s most exclusive neighborhood, surrounded by the material comforts that Kyung desires for his wife and son. Growing up, they gave him every possible advantage—private tutors, expensive hobbies—but they never showed him kindness. Kyung can hardly bear to see them now, much less ask for their help. Yet when an act of violence leaves Jin and Mae unable to live on their own, the dynamic suddenly changes, and he’s compelled to take them in. For the first time in years, the Chos find themselves living under the same roof. Tensions quickly mount as Kyung’s proximity to his parents forces old feelings of guilt and anger to the surface, along with a terrible and persistent question: how can he ever be a good husband, father, and son when he never knew affection as a child?

As Shelter veers swiftly toward its startling conclusion, Jung Yun leads us through dark and violent territory, where, unexpectedly, the Chos discover hope. Shelter is a masterfully crafted debut novel that asks what it means to provide for one's family and, in answer, delivers a story as riveting as it is profound.


Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin

A woman battles bluebottles as she plots an ill-judged encounter with a stranger; a young husband commutes a treacherous route to his job in the city, fearful for the wife and small daughter he has left behind; a mother struggles to understand her nine-year-old son’s obsession with dead birds and the apocalypse. In Danielle McLaughlin’s stories, the world is both beautiful and alien. Men and women negotiate their surroundings as a tourist might navigate a distant country: watchfully, with a mixture of wonder and apprehension. Here are characters living lives in translation, ever at the mercy of distortions and misunderstandings, striving to make sense both of the spaces they inhabit and of the people they share them with.  

Introducing... The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

Anil Patel was ten years old the first time he witnessed one of Papa's arbitrations.

-- The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mailbox Monday (2/1/16 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:

Received through TLC Book Tours and the publisher:

Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

In 1788 three men converge in the southern woods of what is now Alabama: Cat, an emotionally scarred white man; Bob, a garrulous black man fleeing slavery; and Istillicha, who seeks retribution after being edged out of his Creek town’s leadership.

In the few days they spend together, the makeshift trio commits a shocking murder that soon has the forces of the law bearing down upon them. Sent to pick up their trail, a probing French tracker named Le Clerc must decide which has a greater claim: swift justice or his own curiosity about how three such disparate, desperate men could act in unison.

Katy Simpson Smith skillfully brings into focus men whose lives are both catastrophic and full of hope—and illuminates the beating heart of a new America. A captivating exploration of how four men grapple with the importance of family, the stain of guilt, and the competing forces of power, love, race, and freedom.


The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Anil is the cherished son of a large family in rural India. As the eldest boy, he is expected to inherit the role of leader of his clan and arbiter of its disputes, dispensing wisdom and good advice. Leena is his closest companion, a fiercely brave girl who loves nothing more than the wild terrain they inhabit and her close-knit family. As childhood friends, they are inseparable—but as adulthood approaches, they grow apart.

Anil is the first person in his family to leave India, the first to attend college, the first to become a doctor. Half a world away in Dallas, Texas, he is caught up in his new life, experiencing all the freedoms and temptations of American culture: he tastes alcohol for the first time, falls in love, and learns firsthand about his adopted country’s alluring, dangerous contradictions. Though his work in a gritty urban hospital is grueling, Anil is determined to carve out his own life in America.

At home, Leena dreams of marriage, a strong and true love like the one shared by her parents, and leaves her beloved home to join her new husband’s family in a distant village.

Then things start to go wrong: Anil makes a medical mistake with tragic results, his first love begins to fray and a devastating event makes him question his worth as a doctor and as a friend. On a visit home, Anil rekindles a friendship with the woman who seems to understand him better than anyone else. But their relationship is complicated by a fateful decision made years earlier.

As the two old friends discover each other again, they must also weigh the choice between responsibility and freedom, and between loyalty and love.



Received from LibraryThing:

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye's decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.



Got through the Book of the Month Club:

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.


Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker.

An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today. Beginning with the grandfather she never knew, the letters range from a missive to the beloved priest from her childhood to remembrances of former lovers to an homage to a firefighter she encountered to a heartfelt communication with the uncle of the infant daughter she adopted. Readers will be amazed by the depth and style of these letters, which reveal the complexity and power to be found in relationships both loving and fraught.


The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

Ruth Wariner was the thirty-ninth of her father’s forty-two children. Growing up on a farm in rural Mexico, where authorities turned a blind eye to the practices of her community, Ruth lives in a ramshackle house without indoor plumbing or electricity. At church, preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world and that women can only ascend to Heaven by entering into polygamous marriages and giving birth to as many children as possible. After Ruth's father--the man who had been the founding prophet of the colony--is brutally murdered by his brother in a bid for church power, her mother remarries, becoming the second wife of another faithful congregant.

In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States, where her mother collects welfare and her step-father works a variety of odd jobs. Ruth comes to love the time she spends in the States, realizing that perhaps the community into which she was born is not the right one for her. As Ruth begins to doubt her family’s beliefs and question her mother’s choices, she struggles to balance her fierce love for her siblings with her determination to forge a better life for herself.

Recounted from the innocent and hopeful perspective of a child, The Sound of Gravel is the remarkable true story of a girl fighting for peace and love. This is an intimate, gripping tale of triumph, courage, and resilience.
 


Ghettoside by Jill Leovy

On a warm spring evening in South Los Angeles, a young man was shot and killed on a sidewalk minutes away from his home, one of hundreds of young men slain in LA every year. His assailant ran down the street, jumped into an SUV, and vanished, hoping to join the vast majority of killers in American cities who are never arrested for their crimes. But as soon as the case was assigned to Detective John Skaggs, the odds shifted. Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential American murder--one young black man slaying another--and a determined crew of detectives whose creed was to pursue justice at all costs for its forgotten victims. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of murder in America--why it happens and how the plague of killings might yet be stopped. 


Purchased from Barnes and Noble:
 
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

REVIEW: Cut the Sugar, You're Sweet Enough by Ella Leche

Synopsis

Energy, lightness, vitality - life without sugar is sweet indeed!

Cut the Sugar, You’re Sweet Enough is a practical, real-life approach to reducing sugar the healthy way so you don’t feel deprived. This is not a sugar-detox book but an inspiring cookbook and guide to change your relationship with the foods you love and address your cravings properly. There are over 100 delicious and easy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and yes, even dessert!

Ella Leché, the voice behind the popular food blog Pure Ella, used to consider herself a healthful eater. She ate salads; she drank water. But like so many of us, she also looked forward to her daily sweet treats. It wasn’t until her health fell apart due to a rare illness that she began to make the food-health connection.

Back in 2008, just months after the birth of her first child, Ella developed debilitating weakness to the point where she collapsed numerous times. She had difficulty getting up from the bed and could barely breathe and eat. The diagnosis was myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular autoimmune condition for which there is no medical cure. The medication she was put on wasn’t helping, and she decided to try and heal through food. She treated candida and eliminated many culprits such as processed foods, wheat, dairy, and, most important, sugar. Slowly she began to feel stronger and healthier. She found sugar was also triggering her frequent headaches, mood swings, and energy slumps. Now she is inspiring others to eat healthier and apply her approach to cut the sugar, not quit sugar entirely!

With emphasis on real, nutrient-dense whole foods—all presented deliciously and beautifully photographed by Ella herself and written in her encouraging, upbeat, grounded voice—Cut the Sugar is an inspirational and accessible guide to the sweet life . . . because you’re sweet enough already!

Recipes include both fan favorites as well as many all-new offerings, including:

Millet-Apple Breakfast Cake
Creamy Avocado-Cucumber Rolls
Chocolate-Dipped Almond & Cacao Nib Biscotti
Raw Berry Swirl Raw Cheesecake
Healthy Three-Ingredient Chocolate Pudding


Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 5th 2016 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN 1449470718 (ISBN13: 9781449470715)


My Thoughts

Sugar is my arch-enemy. I could live on sugar... well, emotionally I could live on sugar. Physically sugar is killing me. Last summer I tried the Whole 30 diet, which was a strict elimination diet that required I avoid lots of things, and one of those was sugar. And I mean avoidance to the nth degree! You were supposed to completely eliminate all refined sugar. Not even things like mayonnaise or ketchup were allowed. And I noticed a lot of physical changes during this 30 day elimination-- positive changes. My skin cleared up, my cough disappeared, I no longer felt bloated, and I had more energy. I'm not sure how many of those changes can be attributed to the elimination of refined sugar, or how many were influenced by the other things I had eliminated like grains, but there was a marked difference.

And then the 30 days were over, and the sugar crept back into my diet. I swear I'm hopeless, but I keep trying.

So I grabbed this book when it became available on Netgalley.

The book begins with the author's story. She tells of her debilitating health issues, and how eliminating sugar from her diet resolved those issues.

Then she offers an introduction to sugar, and the easy steps to eliminating sugar. She teaches you how to fill your pantry with "superfoods" to help you not miss the sugar. Things like Cinnamon, Cacao Powder and Nutritional Yeast.

She educates you on how to sprout beans, lentils and seeds, and how to make your own nut and seed milk, i.e. almond milk.

The cover of this book shows waffles and fruit, and the cheerful colors of red, white and blue. And as you begin paging through it you see strawberries and lemons, and this got me expecting that this cookbook would be more desserts and breakfast. You know, healthier alternatives for sweets.

However it wound up being more about alternatives to sweets. It categorizes recipes by Breakfast, Salad & Appetizers, Soups, Mains & Sides, Desserts, Snacks and Drinks. It offers up the normal breakfast options like oatmeal and yogurt parfaits, and then other high protein options like Avocado Toast, or Caramelized Onion, Leek & Potato Chickpea Frittata.

My final word: This book is a good option for some, but not for me. It uses a lot of gluten-free ingredients (and I'm not looking to go gluten free, although you could probably easily use gluten options instead), and it uses sweeteners like stevia and rooibos (another thing I'm not looking to get into). Some of the recipes intrigue me (like Chocolate-Cherry-Chia Pudding), but many of the recipes (particularly those for the mains and sides) I just have no interest in. They simply don't suit my taste buds. It has beautiful photography and is informative, but it just isn't a good fit for me.


Buy Now:
Barnes and Noble 
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.

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. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Introducing... Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

About this time, a bloody transaction occurred in the territory of the present county of Conecuh... The party consisted of a Hillabee Indian, who had murdered so many men, that he was called Istillicha, the Man-Slayer-- a desperate white man, who had fled from the States for the crime of murder, and whom, on account of his activity and ferocity, the Indians called the Cat-- and a blood-thirsty negro, named Bob.

Albert James Pickett, History of Alabama, and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi, from the Earliest Period (1851)

-- Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith