This charming book is funny and wise. The main character gets roped into taking his sister’s guru on a road trip. Otto is skeptical and annoyed, but by the end of the journey he and the guru have become friends and he’s even tried meditating. I rarely give out 5 stars and this book isn’t “hi-brow literature,” but I must say it is delightful entertainment – and well-written. I want to read the next in the series.
Welcome to the 10th annual Read an E-book Week. The Smashwords site is offering A Place in the World ( set in the Colombian cloud forest) for $1 this week only. (As of last night Amazon was also matching the price on their Kindle books – let me know if you have trouble with that).
You will find thousands of other e-books that are free or deep-discounted this week through March 9. These include multi-formats (Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Apple users, Kobo and more) in their e-catalog. If you find books you recommend on this site please let others know by commenting below.
Wikipedia says “The main reasons more people are buying e-books online are lower prices, increased comfort (as they can buy from home or on the go with mobile devices) and a larger selection of titles…In the space that a comparably sized physical book takes up, an e-reader can contain thousands of e-books, limited only by its memory capacity. Depending on the device, an e-book may be readable in low light or even total darkness.”
The last two sentences are the reasons I take my e-reader when I travel, but then, I confess, I often prefer to hold a”real” book (unless it is more than 300 pages or so!).
What about you: e-books or print?
Black History Month began in 1926 as a way for remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It still pays tribute to those who struggle(d) against unfairness and adversity. It is celebrated in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. February was chosen as the birthday month of two men who greatly influenced the black American population, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Also in February, 1870 black citizens were granted the right to vote (at least legally) in the US; in February 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded and Rosa Parks was also born in February (1913). For more information go to https://asalh.org/
Below is a short list of some books by or about people of African descent that I have enjoyed. They reflect multiple themes and genres and are in no particular order.
Dreams from my Father:
A story of race and inheritance by Barack Obama
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones –the sad tale of a black man sent to prison and of lives ripped apart
The Color Purple by Alice Walker – a very moving novel set the 1930’s
Hidden Figures by Lee Shetterly– about four black women and the space race (and yes – also a good movie!).
On My To Read LIST:
Becoming – a memoir by the inspirational Michelle Obama (on most every one’s list!)
Frederick Douglass by David Blight, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.
Contra Costa County Libraries also has a list of recommendations along the lines of Black Migrations: go to https://guides.ccclib.org/blackhistorymonth
There are so many more. Please add your own favorites in the comments below for others to enjoy.
Last week I reviewed four entertaining novels: The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Secrets of a Charmed Life, Honolulu and A Dog’s Purpose. Below I include some more worthy books with brief descriptions.
I’m not a big reader of nonfiction and have been disappointed in some of those with high reviews (but that’s just me). One worth mentioning however is Thailand in Perspective by James King. King is an entertaining writer who lives in Thailand and has written a trilogy of these books including: 15 weeks (Vol. 1 – free on Kindle) and Driving Thailand (Vol.2). I’ve never been there, but his writing makes me want to go. Even if you are not planning a visit this is good travel-armchair reading.
Other Novels I enjoyed last year are:
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks –a compelling story about a missionary’s daughter and a Native American student at Harvard – one constrained by his skin the other by her sex. Moving and at times triumphant; set in mid 1600’s.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho –
A charming and wise little fable. A shepherd boy travels through Spain and northern Africa in search of treasure and finds simple truths.
Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah – written in present tense, about a dysfunctional family, and in past tense is the haunting saga of WWII Leningrad. Two sisters come to understand their dynamics in a satisfying conclusion.
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman – Enjoy the plot and the writing, full of symbolism – look for the flowers, birds and all the “opposites.” The story, set in St. Thomas, is about artist Pissarro’s extraordinary family life.
A Gentleman in Moscow – To be honest I had trouble getting through this highly acclaimed book. Amor Towles’ fans will be appalled I know, but here’s why: it is long with no page-turning plot. That said, Towles is a literary writer and I appreciated the fine writing about post-revolutionary Russia.
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland. Unusual story about strangers who band together, to escape the Black Plague wreaking havoc in a bleak, muddy landscape. The pilgrims have been compared to the Canterbury Tales, also set in the14thcentury, each has a secret. Slow but worthwhile with a surprise ending.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett is also good. A novel about two families and how each member’s life is changed by an affair between two of the parents. Bel Canto is still my favorite Patchett book.
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline, based on the real story of Christina Olson and Andrew Wyeth . I think those interested in art will like it. Orphan Train is my favorite book by her, but many would disagree with me.
Have you read any of these books? Do you have others to recommend?
I selected a number of books I read in the last year to review for this blog. They tend to lean toward historical novels with a sprinkling of multicultural ones. I am neither as prolific a reader as so many others, nor a literary critic, but as an author I am occasionally asked to review manuscripts. I can recommend these books as entertaining reads.
But before I say more, first a proviso: most of them are not recently published so if you are looking for new books I’m afraid by the time they make it to the top of my reading list they are no longer new! Still a good book lasts forever.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter is an extraordinary tale, full of magical realism, based on historical facts and folklore. Teresita, the 16-year-old, illegitimate but cherished daughter of a wealthy rancher becomes regarded as a healer and saint. Urrea breathes life into his three main characters: Teresita, Tomas and Huila… and secondary fictional characters like loyal Segundo seem genuinely real too. The stage is 19th-century Mexico as civil war is fermenting in Mexico. The time and setting swept me away, along with – in spite of – the social struggles of the indigenous people. I enjoyed reading the cultural elements, the food and even all the swear words “chingado, bruto, cabron, pendejo,” that I rarely heard in my youth growing up in Latin America. Some reviewers have not liked the sprinkling of Spanish, but it does not distract from the story; rather it enriches it, especially if you know even a few words. If not, don’t feel you’ve lost the meaning. On the publisher’s page is the standard disclaimer: “the characters and events in this book are fictional” but the author’s note in the back states “Teresa Urrea was a real person,” and a relative in author’s family.
Secrets of a Charmed Life – I’ve read SO many WWII stories lately that it took me awhile to pick this one up, but I did because it is by master storyteller Susan Meissner who wrote the Fall of Marigolds. Could she create another tour de force? –Yes and here it is. I found it hard to put the book down. It starts out full of hope and even joy, then fate leads us to heartache, but finally redemption. Here’s an excerpted bit of prose I found enthralling yet chilling, on the day the Blitz began (pg.147): “while London was going about its Saturday afternoon…hundreds of Luftwaffe pilots were climbing into their cockpits….the RAF pilots had never seen so many aircraft in the air at the same time… like a sheet of black across the sky…a (radar) WAAF couldn’t believe what she was seeing, “What is that?” … pointing to the monstrous cloud across the screen…Then the Dover radar picked up the giant shadow….oh, the chatter as they took to their radios to warn their brothers at arms that an armada from hell was streaking across the Channel toward them.” This is a story of ordinary people whose lives are forever damaged and the grief and guilt a teenager had to bear due to a moment of incaution.
Competing for top billing is Honolulu by Alan Brennert, and – a totally different genre – A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron.
I met Alan Brennert at a book-reading at Orinda Books and have been a fan ever since. He weaves a heartwarming story in Honolulu about a young Korean girl who wants more in life than her confining birthright. Jin/Gem decides to become a “picture bride” and travels to Hawaii to discover her new husband is not quite how he presented himself and his life is certainly not what she imagined. Her existence is in the pineapple plantations and in canneries, where she toils – and triumphs – to better herself. As time goes on the Korean picture brides come together, help each other and finally climb out of poverty and lead comfortable and happy lives. Much research went into this accurate portrayal of Oahu. As a frequent visitor and a lover of Hawaii I really enjoyed this story as much as his Molokai. Anyone who likes a good yarn will appreciate this novel.
A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. This wise and magical book is about one endearing dog’s quest for his purpose through several reincarnated lives. A delightful dog story, but also at a deeper level it asks the age-old question, “why are we here?” Bailey is astounded to find himself reborn as a boisterous puppy into the loving home of 8 yr. old Ethan. This dog is a being so caring, affectionate and “highly evolved” he deserves sainthood, yet Bailey seems like a very real character. Does he exist somewhere? He will make you laugh and cry and affirms that love never dies. (Alas at least one of his lives is quite sad, but Cameron adapted a version for young readers which I bought for my granddaughter.)
Have you read any of these books? Do you have others to recommend?
I’ll add a few other books I enjoyed this year in my next post. Meanwhile HAPPY NEW YEAR and keep reading!
READERS: Smashwords is having an End of Year Sale on e-books which runs only through January 1. “Discover tens of thousands of deep-discounted e-books from thousands of the world’s best indie authors and publishers.”
(OK there’s some junky books on the list but also some good ones, I especially noted good biographies at 75% off.) You can pick up some books for only a $1 (like mine 😉 ) to $3 – there are even some freebies.
Last year California had record breaking fires – that record held for almost 100 yrs. Now we’ve broken last year’s record for the most destructive fire ever. Normally we would have had rains by now and “fire season” would be over – and acres of land and homes – not to mention lives, would not have been lost. We haven’t had any rain since early spring and the land is very dry. ( In October, San Francisco had weeks of temperatures breaking 80 degrees and in November it was in the 70’s – until the fires darkened the skies.)
The town of Paradise is Paradise no more, in fact very little is left of it. People have died and many more are homeless in this area… because of global warming. Think about that.
Although we live 180 miles south-southwest of the big Butte Co. fire, we are being advised to stay indoors with windows closed. Public schools are closed from Butte Co to well south of San Francisco; even the Cable cars shut down, as we now have the dirtiest air in the world. The skies vary from hazy to a dirty orangey color and are predicted to continue this week to plague us.
Taken at noon – smoke blocking the sun.
It has been 8 days now since that fire started (there are others). Yesterday it was announced it was only 40% contained; today they say they are making progress.
In the first days, the sun’s rays were sometimes bent to cast an unusual gold-red glow that was ironically pretty. It reminds me of the shadows we saw during an eclipse. Smoke particles filter sunlight, scattering short wavelengths and leaving the longer reddish wavelengths of the light spectrum behind. This allows more orange and red colors to pass through the smoke.
I have a cough and sore eyes, but the bigger picture is… that smoke is coming from people’s lost homes. There are horror stories of people running from the flames into swimming pools and creeks, but you read the news. My heart goes out to the thousands affected.