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:
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.

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 . . .

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Introducing... The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

All I knew at the beginning was that the first two nurses assigned to the Professor had not lasted twelve days, and now it was my turn.

-- The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan

Friday, June 17, 2016

ON MY RADAR (6-17-16 edition): Books that have hit my radar

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

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

A luminous, tenderly rendered novel of a woman fighting for her family's survival in the early years of the Dust Bowl; from the acclaimed and award-winning Rae Meadows.

Annie Bell can't escape the dust. It's in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children's dry, cracked lips. It's 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie's fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain.

As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love.




A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility—a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

With his breakout debut novel, Rules of Civility, Amor Towles established himself as a master of absorbing, sophisticated fiction, bringing late 1930s Manhattan to life with splendid atmosphere and a flawless command of style.

A Gentleman in Moscow
immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
  



Truevine by Beth Macy

The true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back. 
  The year was 1899 and the place a sweltering tobacco farm in the Jim Crow South town of Truevine, Virginia. George and Willie Muse were two little boys born to a sharecropper family. One day a white man offered them a piece of candy, setting off events that would take them around the world and change their lives forever. Captured into the circus, the Muse brothers performed for royalty at Buckingham Palace and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. They were global superstars in a pre-broadcast era. But the very root of their success was in the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even "Ambassadors from Mars." Back home, their mother never accepted that they were "gone" and spent 28 years trying to get them back.
Through hundreds of interviews and decades of research, Beth Macy expertly explores a central and difficult question: Where were the brothers better off? On the world stage as stars or in poverty at home? TRUEVINE is a compelling narrative rich in historical detail and rife with implications to race relations today.



All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible "adult" around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.


Monday, June 13, 2016

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Synopsis

National Bestseller

Selected as one of NPR’S Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of All Time

The #1 New York Times bestselling author’s ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his “preferred text”—and including his special Neverwhere tale, “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back”

Published in 1997, Neverwhere heralded the arrival of a major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy. Over the years, a number of versions were produced both in the U.S. and the U.K. Now Gaiman’s preferred edition of his classic novel reconciles these works and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books.

Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman with a good heart whose life is changed forever when he stops to help a bleeding girl—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world—and may well die trying.


Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 7, 2016)


About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett)The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and MirrorsFragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College. 

Check out the author's website
Find the author's books at his online bookstore
Follow the author on Facebook, tumblrTwitter, and his blog.

My Thoughts
The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
This story takes place in the London underworld-- a world unseen by those above; a sort of alternate dimension. Richard Mayhew is going about his business as an ordinary (perhaps extraordinarily ordinary) Londoner. About three years after moving to London from Scotland, he is working an ordinary job, and has somehow found himself engaged to Jessica, a beautiful if temperamentally questionable gallery worker. But on the night of an important dinner with Jessica's boss, Richard finds an injured girl on the street with the unusual name of Door. His encounter with Door spoils Jessica's plans with her boss, and Richard's life is totally upended. The next thing he knows, he is in London Below, where everything is very familiar and yet completely different from anything he's ever known.

London Below is a whole world that exists down in the underground tunnels and subway platforms and sewers. It's a world where rats are respected members of society with translators that speak for them, where floating markets pop up like raves. A dangerous place where the dead may walk again and the living are just grateful to be living another day.

Door has a special gift of being able to see and open hidden doors to other places, and she just lost her entire family in the most brutal of fashions. Now the same men who killed her family are after her, and Richard has become the most unlikely of champions.

I was first introduced to the author when a girlfriend of a co-worker gave me American Gods to read. I was just getting back into reading after a hiatus from fiction, and I had never read fantasy before. I just could not open my mind enough to embrace his novel, and quickly gave up on it, shaking my head and asking, "What the heck was that??"

However my mind is a little more open these days to fantasy and I decided to give the author another try. I'll admit that I was nervous about it. 

Sometimes fantasy can ask too much of me. I try to keep an open mind, but at times fantasy will completely defy physical laws. And I dislike lazy writing where absolutely anything can happen to propel a storyline forward. For instance, you may have a character in an impossible situation, so the writer has a bush turn into a horse so the character can ride off to safety, or something equally ridiculous. That sort of thing frustrates me, as ANYONE can do ANYTHING when there are no rules!

In Neverwhere, there is a logic to the insanity. As bizarre as the story could get and as outlandish as the characters were (often there was an early 1900s London feel to the world below), it was almost...believable.
I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Tuesday, June 7th: Reading Reality
Wednesday, June 8th: 5 Minutes For Books
Thursday, June 9th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Friday, June 10th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Monday, June 13th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Tuesday, June 14th: Literary Feline
Wednesday, June 15th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, June 16th: Luxury Reading
Monday, June 20th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, June 22nd: Ms. Nose in a Book
Thursday, June 23rd: Art @ Home

My final word: I can see what all of the hullabaloo is about surrounding this author. The London underground was the perfect setting for one of his stories. It's rich and loamy, dank and dreary. You can almost smell the mildew and mold, screwing up your eyes to see your way in the dark. His writing is divine (and divining), his ability to draw characters so fully that I can almost see them, smell their perfume, hear the rustle of their heavy garb, and I can feel the cold, damp concrete wall under my hand as I make my way through the tunnels as I follow them blindly. And I will follow them blindly. I'll follow them anywhere in the Neverwhere.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
HarperCollins

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 TLC Book Tours and the publisher, 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. 

Mailbox Monday (06/13/16 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

Mailbox Monday is hosted here. I've received a few new books recently:
 
The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan
Received through TLC Book Tours

Deborah Birch is a seasoned hospice nurse whose daily work requires courage and compassion. But her skills and experience are tested in new and dramatic ways when her easygoing husband, Michael, returns from his third deployment to Iraq haunted by nightmares, anxiety, and rage. She is determined to help him heal, and to restore the tender, loving marriage they once had.

At the same time, Deborahs primary patient is Barclay Reed, a retired history professor and expert in the Pacific Theater of World War II whose career ended in academic scandal. Alone in the world, the embittered professor is dying. As Barclay begrudgingly comes to trust Deborah, he tells her stories from that long-ago war, which help her find a way to help her husband battle his demons.

Told with piercing empathy and heartbreaking realism, The Hummingbird is a masterful story of loving commitment, service to country, and absolution through wisdom and forgiveness.



Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation by Julie M. Fenster
Received through Blogging for Books


The surprising story of how Thomas Jefferson commanded an unrivaled age of American exploration—and in presiding over that era of discovery, forged a great nation.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.

Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams who did the same work, in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike—all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier and keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.

But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.
 



The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
Received through LibraryThing
 
One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland's post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .

Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland's twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.
 



The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Purchased as my August book club selection 

During a summer party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is happily dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and watches as her mother speaks to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime. A crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy—her vivacious, loving, nearly perfect mother.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress living in London. The family is gathering at Greenacres farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this may be her last chance, Laurel searches for answers to the questions that still haunt her from that long-ago day, answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past.

Dorothy’s story takes the reader from pre–WWII England through the blitz, to the ’60s and beyond. It is the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined. The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams and the unexpected consequences they sometimes bring. It is an unforgettable story of lovers and friends, deception and passion that is told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.
 

Friday, June 10, 2016

ON MY RADAR (6/10/16 edition): Books that have hit my radar

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

The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle

It is 1994, and in the desert near Tillman, Arizona, forty miles from Tucson, a grand experiment involving the future of humanity is underway. As climate change threatens the earth, eight scientists, four men and four women dubbed the “Terranauts,” have been selected to live under glass in E2, a prototype of a possible off-earth colony. Their sealed, three-acre compound comprises five biomes—rainforest, savanna, desert, ocean and marsh—and enough wildlife, water, and vegetation to sustain them.

Closely monitored by an all-seeing Mission Control, this New Eden is the brainchild of eco-visionary Jeremiah Reed, aka G.C.—“God the Creator”—for whom the project is both an adventure in scientific discovery and a momentous publicity stunt. In addition to their roles as medics, farmers, biologists, and survivalists, his young, strapping Terranauts must impress watchful visitors and a skeptical media curious to see if E2’s environment will somehow be compromised, forcing the Ecosphere’s seal to be broken—and ending the mission in failure. As the Terranauts face increased scrutiny and a host of disasters, both natural and of their own making, their mantra: “Nothing in, nothing out,” becomes a dangerously ferocious rallying cry.

Told through three distinct narrators—Dawn Chapman, the mission’s pretty young ecologist; Linda Ryu, her bitter, scheming best friend passed over for E2; and Ramsay Roothorp, E2’s sexually irrepressible Wildman—The Terranauts brings to life an electrifying, pressured world in which connected lives are uncontrollably pushed to the breaking point. With characteristic humor and acerbic wit, T. C. Boyle indelibly inhabits the perspectives of the various players in this survivalist game, probing their motivations and illuminating their integrity and fragility to illustrate the inherent fallibility of human nature itself.



Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island; along with her mother, she fled the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father and ravaging the island’s environment. Now, Lucie’s childhood friend Kate is living within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” There have been remarkable changes to the land at the colony’s homestead. Lucie’s experience as a journalist tells her there’s more to the Colony—and their charismatic leader-- than they want her to know, and that the astonishing success of their environmental remediation has come at great cost to the Colonists themselves. As she uncovers their secrets and methods, will Lucie endanger more than their mission? What price will she pay for the truth?

In the company of Station Eleven and California, Marrow Island uses two tense natural disasters to ask tough questions about our choices—large and small. A second novel from a bookseller whose sleeper-hit debut was praised by Karen Russell as “haunted, joyful, beautiful….” it promises to capture and captivate new readers even as it thrills her many existing fans.



Coyote America by Dan Flores

With its uncanny night howls, unrivaled ingenuity, and amazing resilience, the coyote is the stuff of legends. In Indian folktales it often appears as a deceptive trickster or a sly genius. But legends don’t come close to capturing the incredible survival story of the coyote. As soon as Americans—especially white Americans—began ranching and herding in the West, they began working to destroy the coyote. Despite campaigns of annihilation employing poisons, gases, helicopters, and engineered epidemics, coyotes didn’t just survive, they thrived, expanding across the continent from Anchorage, Alaska, to New York’s Central Park. In the war between humans and coyotes, coyotes have won hands-down.

Coyote America is both an environmental and a deep natural history of the coyote. It traces both the five-million-year-long biological story of an animal that has become the “wolf” in our backyards, as well as its cultural evolution from a preeminent spot in Native American religions to the hapless foil of the Road Runner. A deeply American tale, the story of the coyote in the American West and beyond is a sort of Manifest Destiny in reverse, with a pioneering hero whose career holds up an uncanny mirror to the successes and failures of American expansionism.

An illuminating biography of this extraordinary animal, Coyote America isn’t just the story of an animal’s survival—it is one of the great epics of our time.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Mailbox Monday (6/6/16 edition)

 Image licensed from bigstockphoto.com
Copyright stands

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

Reviewing for TLC Book Tours:

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman 

 The #1 New York Times bestselling author’s ultimate edition of his wildly successful first novel featuring his “preferred text”—and including the special Neverwhere tale, How the Marquis Got His Coat Back.

Published in 1997, Neil Gaiman’s darkly hypnotic first novel, Neverwhere, heralded the arrival of this major talent and became a touchstone of urban fantasy. Over the years, a number of versions were produced both in the U.S. and the U.K. Now, this author’s preferred edition of his classic novel reconciles these versions and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he is plunged through the cracks of reality into a world of shadows and darkness—the Neverwhere. If he is ever to return to the London Above, Richard must join the battle to save this strange underworld kingdom from the malevolence that means to destroy it.



Won through LibraryThing:

We are Afghan Women: Voices of Hope by George W. Bush Institute

 Here are Afghan women in their own words. Words that are by turns inspiring, moving, courageous, and heartbreaking. Their powerful stories create a compelling portrait of the lives, struggles, and successes of this extraordinary nation and its extraordinarily resilient women. With an introduction by Laura Bush, honorary founding co-chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.

Afghanistan has been described as “the worst nation in the world to be a woman.” More than fifty percent of girls who are forced into marriage are sixteen or younger. Too many women live in fear and in many areas, education and employment for women are still condemned. The women featured in We Are Afghan Women are fighting to change all that. From rug weavers to domestic violence counselors to business owners, educators, and activists, these courageous women are charting a new path for themselves, their families, their communities, and their nation. Told in their own voices, their stories vividly capture a country undone by decades of war and now struggling to build a lasting peace.

Meet Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, who ran underground schools for girls until the Taliban fell, and today has established educational centers across Afghanistan to teach women and girls basic literacy. Or Freshta Hazeq, who as a female business owner, has faced death threats, sabotage, and even kidnapping threats against her children. Naheed Farid is the youngest female member of Afghanistan’s parliament. During her campaign, opponents cut Naheed’s face out of campaign posters and her family risked complete ruin, but her husband and father-in-law never wavered, encouraging her to persevere. Here, too are compassionate women such as Masooma Jafari, who started a national midwives association. Her own mother was forced into marriage at age twelve and gave birth to her first child at age thirteen.

With an introduction by former First Lady Laura Bush, We Are Afghan Women chronicles the lives of young and old, daughters and mothers, educated, and those who are still learning. These determined women are defying the odds to lead Afghanistan to a better future. Their stories are a stark reminder that in some corners of the world the struggle continues and that women’s progress in society, business, and politics cannot be taken for granted. Their eloquent words challenge all of us to answer: What does it truly mean to be a woman in the twenty-first century?



As Good as Gone by Larry Watson

The American West is bestselling author Larry Watson’s forte, and in this, his tenth novel, he has created his most vivid, genuine antihero yet in Calvin Sidey, a man stuck in a myth.

Calvin Sidey, steely, hardened, with his own personal code, is one of the last cowboys. It’s the 1960s, and he’s living off the grid in a trailer on the prairie when his adult son, Bill, seeks his help. A mostly absentee father and grandfather, Calvin nevertheless agrees to stay with his grandchildren for a week. He decamps for his son’s house in the small town where he once was a mythic figure, and soon enough problems arise: a boy’s attentions to seventeen-year-old Ann are increasingly aggressive, and a group of reckless kids portend danger for eleven-year-old Will. Calvin only knows one way to solve a problem: the Old West way, in which ultimatums are issued and your gun is always loaded.

In the changing culture of the 1960s, Calvin isn’t just a relic; he’s a wild card. At the same time, his old-school ways exert a powerful effect on those around him, from the widowed neighbor, Beverly Lodge, who feels herself falling for him and wants to be part of his life, to his grandchildren. Ann and Will see in their grandfather a man who brings a sudden, if shocking, order to their lives, as Calvin terrorizes those who have often terrorized them.

With the crisp, restrained prose for which Larry Watson is revered, As Good as Gone is a story of a man increasingly at odds with the world. This is Larry Watson at his best.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Literary Synchronicity

I've been using this bookmark to hold my spot in the Neil Gaiman book I've been reading.

This morning I decided to flip it over to see what it said on the other side...
 

REVIEW: Food Swap by Emily Paster

Synopsis

Whether your goal is to start your own community food swap, or just make delicious treats to share with family and friends, this is the book you need! Part cookbook, part how-to guide, Food Swap features more than 80 recipes for artisanal items that will be coveted at food swaps and adored as gifts, including preserves, baked goods, granolas, cheeses, pestos, roasted nuts, flavored salts, and specialty spices -- everything from salted caramel sauce and Meyer lemon curd to green tomato salsa, lavender shortbread, cultured butter, apricot jalapeno jelly, and rum vanilla extract. You'll also find creative ways to irresistibly package your items, and the book even includes perforated gift tags ready for personalization. Finally, author Emily Paster -- co-founder of the Chicago Food Swap, one of the biggest in the world -- offers guidance on setting up a food swap in your own community, as well as inspiring stories from people who are part of this growing movement.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by Storey Publishing, LLC
ISBN 1612125638 (ISBN13: 9781612125633)

 Check out the author's website


My Thoughts

I've always been fascinated with the idea of growing my own food and a pantry and refrigerator full of homemade goodies, and then trading my goods with others who do the same. Unfortunately I'm not very good at growing things (I don't quite have a black thumb, but I can't compete with the Florida heat to allow most things to thrive and produce, especially anytime outside of winter and fall). But I still hold out hope for myself.

I have dabbled a little with homemade food stuffs. I've canned jelly and relish, made spiced nuts, fresh butter and farmer's cheese. And doing so has just assured me that I'd like to do more of it! But you always wind up with much more than a single person can eat, and you just want to share. Enter the food swap!

At a food swap, attendees bring homemade foods (or sometimes crafts) to trade with others. It's a good way to fill your pantry with a variety of items rather than just a couple of things, and to be exposed to items you may have never thought about trying otherwise.

This book explains what a food swap is, has examples of food swaps held across the country, strategies for hosting a successful swap (or for just being a successful attendee), and then provides a large selection of recipes for popular food swap-type foods, and is filled with lovely photos. Try some Salted Caramel Sauce (great drizzled over ice cream) or Lavender Shortbread. Swap some Kale and Onion Miniature Frittatas. Or how about some Tuscan White Bean and Rosemary Dip to share? I'm eager to try the Citrus Curd (a great choice here in Florida), and the book informs us that granola (like the Cherry-Almond Granola in the book) is always a big hit at swaps.

My final word: This book did the job. I've always been intrigued by the idea of "food swapping" and preserving foods and self-sustaining methods. I got this book to explore one of those ideas a little further, and it fueled the fire with its wealth of information, lovely photography, and taste bud tantalizing recipes. I got a free review copy of this book through Netgalley, but I will be buying a copy to add to my permanent library. A great introduction to the food swap phenomenon!

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. The book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.  


 

Friday, June 3, 2016

ON MY RADAR (6/03/16 edition): Books that have hit my radar

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

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

From the Emmy, PEN, Peabody, Critics' Choice, and Golden Globe Award-winning creator of the TV show Fargo comes the thriller of the year.

On a foggy summer night, eleven people-ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter-depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs-the painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members-including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot-the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.



The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel

Reina Castillo is the alluring young woman whose beloved brother is serving a death sentence for a crime that shocked the community, throwing a baby off a bridge—a crime for which Reina secretly blames herself. With her brother's death, though devastated and in mourning, Reina is finally released from her prison vigil. Seeking anonymity, she moves to a sleepy town in the Florida Keys where she meets Nesto Cadena, a recently exiled Cuban awaiting with hope the arrival of the children he left behind in Havana. Through Nesto’s love of the sea and capacity for faith, Reina comes to understand her own connections to the life-giving and destructive forces of the ocean that surrounds her as well as its role in her family's troubled history, and in their companionship, begins to find freedom from the burden of guilt she carries for her brother’s crime.

Set in the vibrant coastal and Caribbean communities of Miami, the Florida Keys, Havana, Cuba, and Cartagena, Colombia, with The Veins of the Ocean Patricia Engel delivers a profound and riveting Pan-American story of fractured lives finding solace and redemption in the beauty and power of the natural world, and in one another.
 



The Fireman by Joe Hill

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.
 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Introducing... Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Introducing books through the first chapter or so...

The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.

-- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman