Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review: The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution

The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution The New Farm: Our Ten Years on the Front Lines of the Good Food Revolution by Brent Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is for anyone who has dreamed of quitting their jobs and living off the land, from a very hard-working couple who did, and became central to the farm-to-table landscape of Ontario. I particularly appreciated the ruminations at the end about defining success, how much is enough, and what happiness means.

I received a copy of this book for review through my participation in the Abrams Dinner Party.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Reading Envy 114: Raised by Wolves

 A much beloved guest of Reading Envy, Karen Acosta, is back to talk about a few recent reads and related films she is excited about. She sneaks in a few extra titles by talking about related books in series or trilogies.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 114: Raised by Wolves

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Listen via Stitcher

I am scheduling guests for the second half of 2018! If you are interested in appearing on the podcast: FAQ

Books Discussed:



The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gayle Honeyman
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute


Other Mentions: 

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles #1)
C.B. Strike (tv show)
The Tournament of Books 2018
Red Sparrow (film)
Palace of Treason by Jason Matthews
The Kremlin's Candidate by Jason Matthews
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Americans (tv series)
Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
Bunheads (tv series)
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
White Houses by Amy Bloom


Related Episodes:

Episode 004 - Home, Frightening and Banned with guest Karen Acosta
Episode 015 - The Time for Exclaiming Over Costumes with Jean and Karen
Episode 051 - Dreaming in Books with Karen Acosta
Episode 066 - When Time Stops with Karen Acosta
Episode 100 - 100 Reasons Why 
Episode 101 - A Different Kind of Time Travel with Karen Acosta
Episode 106 - Falling Asleep During Tarkovsky Films with Jon Laubinger 


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Jenny at Goodreads
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Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review: Every Note Played

Every Note Played Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Genova writes novels about severe illnesses as an attempt to raise awareness and funds for research of them. I read Inside the O'Briens, about Hungtington's, and have seen the film based on Still Alice, which is about early-onset Alzheimers (and consequently gave my husband and I both more nightmares than we have ever had from any horror movie.) I hadn't quite made the connection to her previous work when I requested a galley of this novel; I was more focused on the classical pianist angle.

Richard is an acclaimed pianist. He is also recently divorced, a messy one, after his infidelities and some other secrets that were hidden. His wife and daughter are not in his life, his daughter having chosen her mother over her father, who often chose piano or his flings over time with her.

But as he is preparing for a tour, his fingers stop responding the way he expects and he is diagnosed with ALS. Eventually he has to figure out who in his family can help him as he loses the ability to care for himself.

This is a timely read with the very recent passing of Stephen Hawking, who lived far longer with ALS than most people do. Most people have the sentence of 3-5 years once they are diagnosed, and much of those years depends on which kind of treatment they get, or more accurately, which kinds of treatment they can afford. Since this is set in the United States, and Richard is limited to the insurance he purchased himself as a fairly healthy self-employed pianist, his insurance doesn't cover his expensive wheelchair, and certainly not the 24/7 care he would have required if he had elected to have the surgery that would have ended up with machines breathing for him. He could have had that surgery, but the rest of his body would still have deteriorated. There is no cure for ALS.

All to say that this presents some difficult decisions, and harder because by the time they are past denial in dealing with the disease, he has already lost much of his ability to communicate. No cure, no insurance coverage - these facts sometimes force a decision that may not be the best, but the options are pretty limited.

This is not a cheery read! It reminds me in some ways of the cancer novels I used to read as a pre-teen although I do think the author has a nobler goal, in raising money. I feel like some of the ending was less realistic, with many of the relationships coming to resolution. Not everyone gets to do that, whether they understand they are dying or not.

Another book about ALS that I read in the last few years is Home is Burning by Dan Marshall. It is a memoir, from the perspective of the son of someone with ALS, as he moves home to help his father as his body starts to go downhill. This novel shows more of the internal emotional struggle (and external physical struggle) of the person with the diagnosis, which I felt made for a richer read.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through Netgalley. It came out March 20, 2018.

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Review: Gods of Howl Mountain

Gods of Howl Mountain Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first read by Taylor Brown but it won't be the last. I love to read books set in somewhat local places!

From the publisher blurb:
"Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina."

I would add to that war veterans, snake healers, and one kick-ass grandma. A fun read and a little look into the lawless world of Appalachia (particularly when the "law" has other motivations.) Granny May is one of the most unforgettable characters in recent reading.

Thanks to the publisher for providing early access through NetGalley and Edelweiss (whoops). The book came out March 20, 2018.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Reading Envy 113: Bonus Episode, Book Speed Dating Round 1

I promised to do more book speed dating in 2018, and here is my first round. See below for more information on book speed dating!

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 113: Bonus Speed Dating 2018-1

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
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Listen via Stitcher

I am scheduling guests for the second half of 2018! If you are interested in appearing on the podcast: FAQ

Books Discussed:

Collision by Merle Kroger
Follow Me Into the Dark by Felicia C. Sullivan
The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Autonomous by Annalee Newitz 
The Living Infinite by Chantal Acevedo
Here in Berlin by Cristina Garcia
Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
The Time of Mute Swans by Ece Temelkuran

Other Mentions: 

The Original Reading Envy Speed Dating Project (with rules)
Speed Dating Round Two
Speed Dating Round Three
Speed Dating Round Four
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

Related Episodes:

Episode 035 - Speed Dating Books
Episode 047 - Sex with Elvis: Bonus Book Speed Dating Episode
Episode 059 - Are you Inspired Yet? bonus book speed dating 
Episode 063 - Desolation Road (book speed dating and books on grief) 
Episode 076 - Borderlands (Reading Goals 2017) - includes speed dating rounds 5-6 of 2016

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Jenny at Goodreads
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Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Reading Envy Podcast 112: Reset Button

Eleanor Thoele has participated in the two Reading Envy Readalongs, but this is her first time as a featured guest. We talk about the comfort of cozy mysteries, the challenge of graphic novels, understanding Japanese culture, and more.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 112: Reset Button

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
Or listen on Google Play
Listen via Stitcher

I am scheduling guests for the second half of 2018! If you are interested in appearing on the podcast: FAQ

Books Discussed:

 

Japanese Destroyer Captain by Captain Tameichi Hara
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family & Place by Terry Tempest Williams
The Sleeping Beauty Killer by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
Winter by Ali Smith


Other Mentions: 

Rizzoli & Isles (tv series)
Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr
#whodunitbymail
USS Juneau
USS The Sullivans
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu
Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas
A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson
When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams
Mary Higgins Clark Award
The Wife by Alafair Burke
The Boat People by Sharon Bala
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones


Related Episodes:


Episode 014 - Flannery O'Connor With Zombies with guest Jason Roland
Episode 079 - Deliberately Silenced and Preferably Unheard with Rima Abunasser
Episode 088 - Author Head Space with Sara Moore 
Episode 090 - Reading Envy Readalong: East of Eden with Ellie and Jeff
Episode 094 - House Arrest with Libby Young
Episode 099 - Readalong: The Secret History 

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Ellie at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Ellie is @elliedottie on Litsy
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy  


Monday, March 12, 2018

Review: Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine

Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Immigrants: we get the job done." (That's a Hamilton reference, y'all.)

Edward Lee veers off in a slightly new direction in this travel memoir that also includes recipes (I really want people to stop calling this a cookbook, it isn't.) He visits places in America that have unique food cultures because of immigrants living there, from Moroccan (and smen, an intriguing fermented butter) in Hartford, Connecticut to a Lebanese community in Mississippi. He even travels through West Virginia with Ronni Lundy, a section I really enjoyed because I have and love her cookbook. He basically invites himself along!

Edward Lee is curious and respectful, and sometimes people don't open up to him right away. His willingness to wait, to keep trying, and keep eating, yields interesting stories (but does not always yield the recipe secrets.) At the end of each section, he includes a few recipes. Sometimes they are pretty close to the food he consumed in the place, and other times it is his spin on it. All of the recipes are in the spirit of what he ate and how it got there, with a little extra bourbon from time to time (once a Kentucky boy....)

I have to admit that I don't expect chefs to be the best writers, but the craft of writing in this book blew me away.
"Paula sits with us for just a few minutes. Her parents still come in to make the kibbeh, she says. No one else can make it right. I can feel the restlessness in her bones that only another chef can truly understand."
He moves between a narrative and reflective voice, and offers a focus and respect to food creators that has been long overdue.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me early access through NetGalley. The book doesn't come out until April 17, but I couldn't wait to read it.

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Review: Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance: Poems

Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance: Poems Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance: Poems by Fady Joudah
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I just returned home from AWP in Tampa. While there, I attended a reading of Milkweed poets, including Fady Joudah. I returned to my hotel room and discovered that one of the galleys of poetry I had for books coming out this next week was the same guy! Cool.

I was surprised to find out that Joudah is a doctor of internal medicine, and also a poet. There are moments in these poems where it is almost as if you see through his doctor's perspective, with skin abrasions and cadavers, disease and corpses. The body, but from a distance. Other moments, the body is close and intimate, or something that can cause violence or pain.

There is also a section of poems written in collaboration with Golan Haji, a Syrian Kurdish poet, whose book of poems I just happened to buy from AWP before going to this reading. What are the odds?

My favorites include:

"The Magic of Apricot" (rather than the madeleine as memory....)

"Epithalamion" (which means a poem celebrating a marriage, and it is lovely)

"The Sole Witness to My Despair, Declare"

"Traditional Anger (in the Sonora)"

"Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance"

I'm not a huge fan of the paragraph poem, but enjoyed "Palestine, Texas" when he read it to the group.

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Review: Another City: Poems

Another City: Poems Another City: Poems by David Keplinger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just returned home from AWP in Tampa. While there, I attended a reading of Milkweed poets, including David Keplinger. I returned to my hotel room and discovered that one of the galleys of poetry I had for books coming out this next week was the same guy! Cool.

My main impression of Keplinger's poems is best described as dealing with artifacts. He seems to use objects to discuss relationships, between people, between a person and their life, between people those who leave and those who stay. They are quiet but some pack a punch, especially those that seem to be talking about loss.

My favorites include:

"The Sibilant," about the different paths a relationship can go

"A Poetry Shop in Heraklion"

"Magic"

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Review: The Hunger

The Hunger The Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any Oregon child studied the Oregon Trail as part of Oregon history, in 4th grade and 8th grade. In 4th grade we played the Oregon Trail computer game in the Intel-provided computer lab, and in 8th grade we did more of a LARP version of the game. My group named itself the Dumber Party, in tribute to the Donner Party. I was Mary Dumber, the only female of the group.

Do I even have to say that we were obsessed with the Donner Party?

Surviving the trek across the country in covered wagons forced pioneers to face an endless number of difficult situations. Start too early and you might encounter snow or run out of food. You might encounter natives, die of dysentery, or drown crossing a river.

So what if there was even more danger hiding in the woods? What if one of your party is rumored to be a witch, and there are creatures in the woods who aren't quite human, said to devour previous parties attempting to cross? This novel explores these horrors and I really enjoyed it. It's the perfect creepy twist to an already death-defying adventure.

Thanks to the publisher for granting me access through Edelweiss. The Hunger came out on March 6, 2018.

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Review: Apocalypse Child: A Life in End Times

Apocalypse Child: A Life in End Times Apocalypse Child: A Life in End Times by Flor Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a must-read for me, because of my obsession with cults and people who leave them! The author grew up in the infamous Children of God cult that started in the 60s, capitalizing on the free love idea and pulling people in around the world. Adherents gave up their possessions and reproduced while awaiting the apocalypse, which was scheduled to happen in 1993. Flor and her twin turned 12 that year, and that was also when she started to suspect that maybe not everything she'd been told was completely true.

This is more of a 3.5 stars read. The story is compelling, of course, but it lacks the perspective I wish I had. The author is an adult now, and I wish she'd done more to fill in the gaps of what she didn't know as a child. Much of the memoir still only contains what happened directly to her. The writing also isn't stellar. It isn't bad, exactly, but that isn't the strength of the book. Still, considering that she actually was practically uneducated as a child, maybe this is asking too much.

I uncomfortably discovered that this group is still around, now known as The Family, still asking people for donations and recruiting people to something thinly veiled as Christian beliefs. Buyer beware!

Thanks to the publisher for approving my request to read this ahead of time through Edelweiss. It comes out March 13, 2018.

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Books Read February 2018: 25-47


Pictured: 5-star reads for February

25. Origin by Dan Brown *** (audiobook review copy; my review)
26. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee **** (personal copy; my review)
27. The Bookworm by Mitch Silver *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
28. Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday ** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
29. The Private Lives of Trees by Alejandro Zambra **** (library book; my review)
30. Winter by Ali Smith **** (personal copy; my review)
31. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson **** (audiobook review copy; my review)
32. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones **** (eARC from NetGalley and personal copy; my review)
33. Love by Hanne Orstavik *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
34. Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
35. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute **** (personal copy; my review)
36. The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers edited by Brian Turner *** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
37. The Rope by Nevada Barr **** (postal book swap; my review)
38. White Houses by Amy Bloom *** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
39. The Undressing: Poems by Li-Young Lee ***** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
40. Virgin by Analicia Sotelo ***** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
41. What Are We Doing Here? by Marilynne Robinson **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
42. Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher **** (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
43. The Answers by Catherine Lacey *** (personal copy; my review)
44. The Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman ** (personal copy; my review)
45. The Change Room by Karen Connelly **** (interlibrary loan; my review)
46. Algeria is Beautiful like America by Olivia Burton **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
47. Wonderland: Poems by Matthew Dickman **** (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)

Books read: 23

Male authors: 9
Female authors: 13
Other/multiple authors: 1

PoC: 5

Audio: 3
eBook: 12
Print: 8

Library copy: 2
Personal copy: 7
Review copy: 14

Crime/thriller: 3
Poetry: 3
Biography/memoir: 1
Essays: 2
Short stories: 2
Literary fiction: 12

Book swap: 1
Book club: 1
Canada-Alaska 2018: 1

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Review: The Break

The Break The Break by Katherena Vermette
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So glad to finally read a book my Canadian friends have been discussing since the start of 2016! A violent crime occurs in a small community that is an offshoot of the M├ętis Nation (in Manitoba, Canada.) It's told from alternating perspectives, allowing for multiple generations and connections to speak for themselves. I was struck by the importance of family, how secrets were kept from people to protect them in different ways, how trauma is passed down.

When Shawn Mooney first came on the Reading Envy Podcast in January 2017, he discussed this book. That episode is even named after a quote from the book.

Thanks to the publisher for approving my request in Edelweiss. It comes out in the USA on March 6, 2018, but can we please work toward a speedier USA pub date from such lauded Canadian titles?

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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Review: Algeria Is Beautiful Like America

Algeria Is Beautiful Like America Algeria Is Beautiful Like America by Olivia Burton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher summary:

Olivia had always heard stories about Algeria from her maternal grandmother, a Black Foot (a “Pied-Noir,” the French term for Christian and Jewish settlers of French Algeria who emigrated to France after the Algerian War of Independence). After her grandmother’s death, Olivia found some of her grandmother’s journals and letters describing her homeland. Now, ten years later, she resolves to travel to Algeria and experience the country for herself; she arrives alone, with her grandmother’s postcards and letters in tow, and with but a single phone number in her pocket, of an Algerian Djaffar, who will act as her guide. Olivia’s quest to understand her origins will bring her to face questions about heritage, history, shame, friendship, memory, nostalgia, fantasy, the nature of exile, and our unending quest to understand who we are and where we come from.
This was a lovely quick read that takes an honest look at the difficulties of a spotted family history, an exploration of what "home" means and if you can find one you never knew, the differences between nostalgia places and real spaces, and a bit of a love story to a landscape that is not frequently celebrated in western culture - the Algerian landscape. I came away feeling like I knew more about certain periods in Algerian history, and the appeal of the place.

Also this counts for the 2018 Reading Women Challenge: graphic novel or memoir (by a woman, obviously.)

Thanks to the publisher for approving my request through Edelweiss. I read it earlier than I meant to, because I was really interested in the experience! It comes out April 24, 2018.

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