Kitchens of the Great Midwest was terrific! I really enjoyed it. I was saddened to see gr reviews by friends who did NOT like this or read a review that convinced them they would not like it so are crossing off lists! I REALLY liked this book and found much that appealed to my reading emotional self. It’s all just crazy. That’s OK. Too each their own. But I would LOVE to make Joann read this and change her mind and then sit and discuss over wine…. (Wow – I don’t usually try twist peoples’ arms to read a book but it somehow keeps poppin’ up in my recall that she is thinking this won’t appeal to her…) I think that what one reviewer found annoying, I found tongue-in-cheek amusing, so it made me chuckle where the other person reacted with DNF and/or chucking the book across the room. Funny, huh?
I thought I missed one book to complete the What’s in a Name Challenge; the the Compass Direction category. A little late in the year for me to start worrying about it, but #shrug. But anyway, I decided to do a look-see through my goodreads My-Books Read list… I searched “North” –> nope, nothing for 2017. I entered “South” –> nothing, again, for 2017. Then “East” –> sure enough –> nada. OK, only one more compass direction to look up, “West”.
AND DING DING DING!!! We have a winner!
I did not do a dedicated review (in a timely manner, ahem) since I failed miserably at this task for most of the last six months. SO I am here now writing on to satisfy the challenge and give a little jig and celebrate a reading challenge for 2017. Kick up your heels and join me?
I give j.Ryan Stradal’s Kitchens of the Great Midwest FIVE SLICES of APPLE PIE!
Did you have some successes in reading challenges for 2017 that I can help YOU celebrate?
I’ve read 4 books since my last review post and finished up May strong with 8 books (one of which was a skim from half point…)
Total for the year so far: 39 books, 9672 pages, ~147 hours
I decided a quick audiobook (< 3 hours) was just the thing to catapult my month’s stats to something I can be proud of and chose Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me. It was both unexpected and affirming; she is an eloquent voice for feminism and human rights. I very much enjoyed this. I was also pleased that she lent insight to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando…
I DNF’d Orlando! Sob, shame, embarrassment. It is NOT a summer beach read; it is dense and though very lively, it takes concentration. I admit I was lost and believe this would be a great book for serious study just not right now in the moment of my crazy life. I had originally attempted the audiobook – nope. Reading the ebook was easier, but… I can’t quite describe the feeling of drowning it gave me. Submerged in what I can only assume is amazing prose but HUH? I need guidance for next time. And I do want to try again. It’s not dry and dusty; it is very lively, but hold on! Goodness.
My neighbor gave me a book written by a friend of hers from a writing group she was involved with. I must say that it was well-written and informative, fascinating even. I know many will and should enjoy it. It just wasn’t my cup of tea in style and format; I guess genre. I like the heavier serious immersive stuff. (How I can say that I liked The Sport of Kings when I didn’t like it but I can “like” this but not? Does that make any sense whatsoever? Nah, I didn’t think so.) I can find much to admire and can recommend Holly Warah’s debut Where Jasmine Blooms: I give it 3 slices of pie. (It did have lots of pie so I could bump up to a 4 slice?) I now must get my hands on a recipe for SAMBUSIK PIE.
Finally, my MIL gave me A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly and I read it in one day. What an amazing story! If you have seen or know about the movie Lion, you know what this is: young boy finds himself on a train to Calcutta, many MANY miles away from home. He is adopted by a family in Australia and when he is 30, he decides to find out about his birth-family. WOW!!
I’m listening to Everything I Never Told You and honestly, I’m not feeling it. Shrug. I’m about 35% in. Maybe I’m just in a horrible mood this summer!? No, that can’t be all of it — I have Kitchens of the Great Midwest on ebook and I am finding it delightful.
Finally. School is out and we are headed to the boat and the lovely waters of Rhode Island. You may not see me around here much… Wishing everyone a super summer and lots of great reading!
Thoughts : And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean, Back Bay Books 2010, 416 pages
Challenge: What’s in a Name: Cutlery Category
Genre: Pop Science
Type/Source: Tradeback Paperback / Local Indie Bookstore
Why I read this now: I think it took me all month to read it. I wanted something new and different after all the 2016 pub’d books I had furiously flown through.
MOTIVATION for READING: I like fun science. This satisfied the cutlery challenge and looked interesting. My other option was Consider the Fork about technology and food. (Yep, another nonfiction.) If you want a title with a knife, I only recommend The Knife of Never Letting Go if you have ALL books in the series. I hate cliffhangers.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: The author walks the reader through the elements of the Chemistry Periodic Table regaling with history, personalities, OF COURSE some science and other oddball tidbits to fascinate.
Jupiter is a fantasy camp for elements.
WHAT’s GOOD: Easy to understand sections about how they figure the age of the world. I enjoyed the personal anecdotes about the fascinating scientists that worked out these challenges. The author does a fair job of recognizing and discussing privilege in science/history. And how much we still don’t understand – the chapter on the alpha constant! It’s everywhere – totally fascinating. He highlights many recent stories that show how science of the elements is still evolving. [doh. The study of medicine/pharmacology, anyone?!] I know that I have internal bias that science discovery was all done ‘back then’ and when he mentions research and experiments past 2005 — I admit, I am embarrassed to wonder “hey- that is recent!” Maybe it is the realization that I have lived some of this history but how can I be that old already? It really is an odd thing to sense one’s own aging; it still befuddles me.
“If anything runs deeper than a mathematician’s love of variables, it’s a scientist’s love of constants.”
What’s NOT so good: I had to have two bookmarks – one for the text and the other in the footnotes section. I’ll never remember most of it! Only occasionally, the presentation is dense and extremely technical but also easy to skip over and get to the good stuff.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you like science history, this is a don’t-miss. But then again, if you really love science history, you probably know a lot of it already.
It often reminded me of that episode of the Big Bang Theory when Sheldon adopts the cats…
Thoughts by Colm Quilligan, Writers’ Island 4th Ed 2017 (orig 2008), 160 pages
The story of Dublin pubs and the writers they served.
Challenge: Tour Dublin
Genre: Travel, Literary Travel!!
Type/Source: Tradeback / purchased directly from the author
Why I read this now: Cuz I bought it from the source AT the source.
MOTIVATION for READING: To see if I really saw Dublin as I hope to have seen it. (yea, not quite, dammit.)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: This book is a guide to all the cool literary places to visit in Dublin! It is NOT the thing to buy on your last day in Dublin. It is preferable to read before setting foot in Dublin but not too far in advance probably (based on ME, cuz I am really horrible about reading stuff pre-visit to places. (What is really crazy is that I can replay that in my head in an Irish accent but I suck at an Irish-accent-attempt live.))
WHAT’s GOOD: Pretty pictures! Slick copy! Cool places! MUST. GET. BACK. TO DUBLIN. Guinness really does taste better in Dublin. Sigh.
This book is packed with places (with addresses – good), photos, interesting tidbits, famous people and other people that may not be known to everyone, fascinating history, etc etc etc. The index is extensive, too, which I know will impress the fussiest of nonfiction-lovers. And a bibliography!
If you read yesterday’s post on Delaney’s Dublin book, you’ll know about The Bailey pub and maybe could tell that it doesn’t look ‘old’. Interesting bit: Delaney lamented that 7 Eccles Street was not a stop on any tour (he does give quite a bit of history why Joyce chose that address in Ulysses) and now Quilligan explains more:
The Bailey was part of the Brown Thomas department store building, which was bough by Marks and Spencer in 1994. The pub and landmark restaurant were closed and quickly gutted, prompting a controversy about where to put the door of 7 Eccles Street, the fictional home of Leopold Bloom (the door had been part of the foyer of the Bailey). Thankfully, the door found a new home at the James Joyce Centre on North Great Georges Street, where it enhance the excellent permanent exhibition that transferred there from the National Library.
We didn’t get to the Joyce Centre on Great Georges. #sadface. I also failed to find the statue of Joyce that was supposed to be on one of the main boulevards, according to the map. I was riding the bus, camera ready and failed to spot it, I guess.
What’s NOT so good: That feeling of wanting to turn around and go back to Dublin immediately because I read this on the plane ride back to America.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Must go back, all there is to it. I follow some cool Twitter pages for promoting Dublin and I just yesterday saw a place I want to go visit that isn’t in this book and now I’m wondering just how big is that town?!
Highly recommended you read this prior to your trip and also enjoy the actual Pub Crawl when you get there.The Crawl is lively and informative with song and ditties and opportunities to taste a beverage or two; but gives only just a little slice of what can be discovered with this book.
RATING: Four slices of pie; Guinness Beef Pie or and even a Guinness Chocolate Cherry Pie? No pie mentioned (or I missed it?)
Thoughts by Frank Delaney, Paladin Grafton Books 1987, 191 pages
Challenge: I traveled to Dublin for Spring Break! I brought this along…
Genre: Nonfiction/Literary Analysis/Travel
Type/Source: Tradeback/Sent from a friend
MOTIVATION for READING: Let’s back up to when I first had this book in my hands. It was January 2011 when I signed up for the “Jousting with Joyce” readalong. I never finished Ulysses and I have no record of what page/episode I stopped on.
So anyway, dear friend Jeanne sent me THIS book out of the blue back in 2011 and I have been treasuring it ever since, thinking “Some day, I will conquer Ulysses“. Rather, I was able to make a trip to Dublin happen instead.
Now I am even more eager to read it (Ulysses), to be honest.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Delaney chats with obvious affection for Joyce and his tale of Ulysses. He organizes his ‘Odyssey’ by the same structure as Joyce does in Ulysses and walks the reader through the story and what it might mean, then and now. This not a step by step walking tour of Dublin. It’s subtle – and it is also 30 years old so many things have changed from 1904 (year the book is set) and 1922 (year Ulysses was published) and 1987.
FYI, Ulysses follows two characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus – not always together, on walkabout through Dublin, basically. Joyce has stated that his book is a blueprint with which to rebuild Dublin if need be. Ready?
A sample of Delany’s words with Joyce’s:
Sandymount Strand, ineluctable as sin, sweeps wide and grey and beige, stippled with gulls and aeroplanes and lighthouses and ships and lone Dedalus-walkers. “Signature of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack the nearing tide, that rusty book.” Most of the thoughts in Stephen’s mind as he walked along Sandymount Strand were triggered by that ineluctable modality of the visible.
So for the ‘now’ of 2017, many signs and plaques identify Joyce’s locations and landmarks — these are not mentioned in Delaney’s book. Perhaps a map of these IS published by the James Joyce museum which I did not visit. I really let my wanderings and Joyce connections happen rather than seek them out. It was a vacation with the Husband who though sympathetic and/or amused, he did not share my enthusiasm. “He indulged me occasionally” would be the best way to put it. So, it was happenstance and sudden delights, when I found a Joyce marker.
WHAT’s GOOD: Photos from turn of the century (late 1800s – early 1900s and some 1987.) Opportunity to consider how Dublin has changed in 30 years and 100+. But the best of the book is the author’s delight in talking about and sharing anecdotes and explanations of what Joyce was attempting with Ulysses.
Another paragraph of Delaney praise for what Joyce attempted in Ulysses:
“The Oxen of the Sun episode is the most difficult to read in Ulysses. All Joyce’s linguistic interests are on exhibition and he gives a foretaste of what was to come in Finnegans Wake. That it exhausted him is certain: in several communications with friends, he referred to “the Oxen of the bloody, bleeding Sun” and he admitted freely that the control of all the ideas, the mathematical nine-part divisions, the embryonic development and the endless parodies were almost as much as he could master. He managed brilliantly.
What’s NOT so good: Of course, I wanted better maps… LOL.
I failed this book as I do most travel books. Tedious to look at when I can’t relate, and too late for visits once I can. I admit, one of our favorite pub visits was to Bruxelles because it was around during Joyce times and is in a photo of Delaney’s book. I didn’t get any pics of our Guinness nor Irish Whiskey while there, unfortunately.
As typical, I now flip through Delaney’s guide and only want to go back to Dublin and see it all again, find the past anew.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I am more willing to attack Ulysses some day. I do feel that it will require patience and a light touch – not taking it too seriously.
“Joyce said once, not without sadness, to Nora: “The pity is the public will demand and find a moral in my book, or worse, they may take it in some serious way, and on the honor of a gentleman, there is not one serious single line in it.”
I am keeping this book as a guide when I do tackle Ulysses because of the same structure and the explanations, motivations, and landmarks in words.
I was in Dublin most of the time. Yes, I did manage a few peeks into the TOB but haven’t commented. Yet.
Happy with Sudden Death going forward, not surprised the Underground Railroad won, and my bracket(s) were blown up by All the Birds! So, oh well. One or both could still emerge victorious at the end but perfection isn’t to be. This thing ain’t over until it’s over.
And I can’t show you many photos because I can’t get my iPhone to talk to my PC to transfer photos. (very frustrating – why is photo org so maddening?!) These I had to email to myself:
Me in my Rooster shirt.
I have a review of The Nix to give you and Pi Day is coming up very soon.
Taking a break from the digital world and all you lovely imaginary friends to explore some new-to-me physical world. Green things! Trees! Flowers! and maybe some old buildings! See you in a few days or longer. I’ll be back for Pi Day. Keep reading, keep learning, keep exploring. Be safe, be fierce.
Thoughts by Trevor Noah, Audible 2016, 8 hours 50 minutes
Challenge: No challenge involved.
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible (a freebie announcement I happened to catch.)
Why I read this now: I needed an easy listen that was short.
MOTIVATION for READING: I love comedian memoirs on audio.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A coming of age tale a few years before Apartheid in South Africa and years following.
WHAT’s GOOD: Fascinating look at a life and cultures of which I know little.
What’s NOT so good: I wanted to know more about how he came to America and got his start in television. Guess that part will be in his next book. Trust me, the ‘early years’ of Trevor Noah have plenty of drama!
FINAL THOUGHTS: Highly recommended. Narration is terrific.
Challenge: Tournament of Books (16 of 18)
Genre: Historical Lit?
Type/Source: Hard Cover/Library
Why I read this now: next in line (actually shorter of the two I was able to get from the library)
MOTIVATION for READING: TOB… starts March 8… Here’s the link to watch… (aw COOL. They have a countdown clock working. At the moment of my typing this sentence, we have 8 days yet to go.)
WHAT’s it ABOUT: High Dive is about the 1984 bomb that damaged the Grand Hotel, killing 5 and injuring 31. It is a fictional account of Dan who works (volunteers?) for the IRA as an ‘electrician’. He lives with his mother in Belfast Ireland and has two dogs. He has a torturous(-to-read-about) initiation “interview”. He prefers to work on the bomb creation side of the violence. The title High Dive is possibly inferred from the background of the second character we meet, Moose Finch. Mr. Finch used to be a diving instructor and is now Assistant to the General Manager for the fancy Grand Hotel in Brighton UK. He loves working with people, regrets not going to University when he had the chance, and is hoping he will be promoted to GM after the political conference being in October. Mr. Finch has a daughter named Freya. While trying to decide if she should travel the world or go on to Uni, she works the front desk of the Grand.
Dan checks in as a guest of the Grand Hotel three weeks before the conference so that he can plant a bomb under the bathtub in the room that Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister, might be staying in.
WHAT’s GOOD: It’s a thoughtful book. It has a melancholy feel. Definitely character-driven not plot-driven.
What’s NOT so good: I kept getting distracted by wanting to look up more about the hotel, the IRA, Belfast, “the troubles”, RUC, maps of Brighton Beach – the Royal Pavilion – the train station. Saracens, Semtex, plimsolls. I slowly, painstakingly dragged myself through these pages at no fault of the book’s but of my distracted scatterbrained lack of ability to concentrate. Once I finally did manage to find focus, I fell into it and loved it.
This quote is on the book jacket:
A bold, astonishingly intimate novel of laughter and heartbreak, High Dive is a moving portrait of clashing loyalties, guilt and regret, and how individuals become the grist of history.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I’ve been to Brighton. I think this fact kept me dedicated to this book and also could be to blame for the distractedness. I’ve been to the Grand Hotel. I didn’t know it had been the site of an assassination attempt on Thatcher. I only needed find a restroom, as a tourist wandering around the beachfront. My memory of that ‘situation’ is clear; but that it was the Grand Hotel that provided me that sanctuary, I am not entirely positive. I think so, I’m pretty sure (based on location and possible path from the train.) I didn’t take any photos of the place. I remember it was full of people. Full of school-age children. It was a cold brisk but sunny bright day and I have very positive fond thoughts of Brighton. It made me feel off-kilter reading this, knowing I had been there not quite 30 years later. I would have been one year older than Freya in 1984.
Here are a few of my Brighton photos:
RATING: Four slices of shepherd’s pie.
“He could reel off the first 200 digits of pi.” p.142
Thoughts by Dr. James Watson, Simon and Schuster 2012 (orig 1968), 368 pages [Edited by Alexander Gann and Jan Witkowski]
Challenge: Classics Club 50
Genre: Science History
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
MOTIVATION for READING: I love science.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: How Watson and Crick used models to figure out how DNA was structured.
WHAT’s GOOD: I did not expect the breezy style. It is very readable.
What’s NOT so good: Well, you may or may not like Dr. Watson at the end but he does tell a fun story, even if bits are regrettable. He was young and determined. He shares more than just the science, but also other activities these youthful scientists were up to – where and what they ate (gooseberry pie has a mention!), the girls they tried to meet, the famous people they encountered and traveled to visit. He talks about his troubles with the sponsor for his time abroad and quite a bit about the personalities of everyone he works with.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I am so glad to have read this. The big question: did Rosalind Franklin get screwed out of the discovery and subsequent Nobel Prize. Question Mark. Let’s just say, it’s complicated and that I could say yes, but. It very much feels like facts happened and one’s viewpoint is X and the other is Y. This and that. Perspectives. And when you start to get snarky, it gets very ugly fast. Did circumstances make it difficult and thus makes it a helluva story? Oh yes.
She deserved more accolades and unfortunately she is getting it now and not in her lifetime. It is sad that she died so young. Was Watson a _____ (insert whatever nasty/relevant word you want here, but my answer is “he was a man”.)
And NOW: I get to read more about Rosalind Franklin:
RATING: Four slices of gooseberry pie. If you are going to read this, I suggest the annotated illustrated edition.