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Review: Honor: A Novel by Thirty Umrigar

My Interest

I love to read stories set elsewhere–in this case India. I also wish American women could appreciate how amazingly privileged they are! We can dis our men all we want, but most of them do try to help at home, do spend time with the kids, and do appreciate their wives. American women are usually taken seriously when they report rape –even rape in marriage. Battered women in America can generally find help–their plight is taken seriously. We have control, oh sorry! We have “agency” over our lives (that means we have choices we can actually make). That is unheard of in so many places. We in American DO still have freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, in spite of efforts from both sides of the political spectrum to encroach on them.

Last year I had the goal of reading more from Reese Witherspoon’s book club, but mostly struck out. Honor is the pick for January 2022 and I was lucky that my library had the e-audio available with no waiting. I hope this book opens the eyes of so many who think they have it so bad. You haven’t met “bad” until you’ve seen what women go through in many other nations.

The Story

Smita, an unbelievably privileged and woke young journalist living in a fashionable area of NYC (the only place she could thrive–her parent’s Ohio college town just didn’t understand….[Must not have been Yellow Springs, eh Smita?]) agrees to help out a friend stuck in the hospital in India by finishing a series of stories on the treatment of a young woman, Meea, who marries out of her faith.

“Nobody taught us what I know today – the most dangerous animal in this world is a man with wounded pride.”

Her brothers, to defend the family’s honor (a concept we in America have largely decided can slide) have burned down the hovel in which Meena and her husband were sleeping. The husband is killed, Meena, though disfigured and somewhat disabled lives and gives birth to their daughter.

“Because a woman can live in one of two houses—fear or love. It is impossible to live in both at the same time.”

A big city women’s advocate gets Mina to go to court and try to have her brothers found guilty of murder. If you think American justice is screwed up, you ain’t seen nothing till you’ve stepped into a court room in any former “3rd World” country. (India is a 1st World country in commerce and a 2nd World or 3rd World country in other ways).

But, Mina’s is not the only story to be unraveled. Smita, too, has quiet a lot on her mind from her own childhood in India. She left the country at 14 with her family and landed in that stifling college town in (dear god, why?) Ohio. Smita is assisted by Mohan, who was her friend’s ( you remember, the journalist in the hospital?) translated and often necessary male companion. Together they set out to wait for the verdict in Mina’s case. They get to know her, her daughter, and the mother-in-law who both hates Mina and needs her.

The story ends in ways that will leave many American women stunned. (No spoilers).

My Thoughts

The oh-so-woke Smita thankfully gets a huge wake-up call (or should that be a “woke-up” call?) after even telling a woman in India that her “privilege is showing.” Yeah. But Smita redeems herself in more ways than one. Her own story is as gripping as Mina’s (no spoilers). I actually came to like and care about her–which I certainly did not see coming in the early chapters. I liked Mohan and was shocked that his story was not woke in any way. As for Meena, her story was not news to me. But I loved that she considered her time with her husband to be the happiest in her life. She, and the countless women like her, deserve more than just a token few months of happiness.

This is a great book for suburban book clubs and for those who genuinely care about the fate or women and children around the world.

My Verdict

3.75

I couldn’t go all the way to 4 stars because I am sick to literal puking of the seemingly mandatory screed against the most recent ex-president inserted into nearly every contemporary book these days. I am no fan of his AT ALL, but let him be history. We do not need a woke litmus test for publishing that includes a screed against him or anyone else.

Honor: A Novel by Thrity Umrigar

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Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

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I’m sure by now even its fans are tired of me going on and on about how great Dean Street Press’ Furrowed Middlebrow series is, but honestly? It’s that good. That is where I discovered the following authors: (And, no they do not pay me anything!)

My reviews are linked at the end of the post.

My lazy attention span and my need for light entertainment to take my mind off unemployment led me to some fun new women’s fiction writers

And, a few others cropped up this year as well.

My Reviews

Dear Hugo by Molly Clavering

A Chelsea Concerto by Frances Faviell

Miss Plum and Miss Penny  by Dorothy Evelyn Smith

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Flora’s Traveling Christmas Shop by Rebecca Raisin

The Cornish Midwife by Jo Bartlett

We’ll Have a Wonderful Cornish Christmas by C.P. Ward

A Mackenzie Yuletide by Jennifer Ashley

The Mitford Vanishing by Jessica Fellowes

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

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Japanese Lit Challenge Review # 2: The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

Read all the Japanese Literature Challenge rules and reviews HERE.

My Interest

Pretty obvious, right? Cats, books? What’s not to love? Plus, it is Japanese and this is one of the two months of the Japanese Literature Challenge. Super!

“A book that sits on a shelf is nothing but a bundle of paper. Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power an epic story is a mere scrap of paper. but a book that has been cherished and loved , filled with human thoughts has been endowed with a soul.”  (p. )

The Story

“I rarely encounter a book with a soul nowadays.” (p.187)

Rintaro is a teenage boy who has just lost his grandfather. The grandfather that has raised him. Raised him in his quirky, wonderful second-hand bookstore that even stocks things like Proust. As he is preparing to close the bookshop and move in with an aunt he barely knows a talking cat appears to him and leads him on challenges through three labyrinths, each full of books needing to be rescued.

Each rescue mission tackles a different type of book abuse….

POSSIBLE SPOILERS

“Just as a person’s soul can be warped by suffering, so can the soul of a book. A book that has been in the hands of a person with a twisted soul will also acquire a twisted soul).” (p. 171-172)

There are the book hoarders who just want to own, the dumbing-down and shortening of books by publishers who want a quick profit, the ridiculous over-supply of mediocre, mindless diversion books. Then there is the the lack of appreciation for intellectual rigor and mental fitness that “hard” books provide and the effort to bury such books in the mists of history. Books are no longer written to try to stand the test of time. These are among the tragedies Rintaro must fight against.

“I used to talk about all kinds of important things with all sorts of people, but now I’m starting to forget what I used to talk about.” (p. 188)

My Thoughts

This book reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in terms of its impact on me. (My son and I listened to the book when he was 14). Someone “gets it.” In our world of vapid celebrity culture, over-scheduled-frantically fragmented families, divide/distract lying politicians of every political stripe, this book gets it.

Just think, it was only a century ago that Jane Addams Hull House and other immigrant settlement houses had DEBATE CLUBS and philosophy lectures for immigrants. Can you even imagine that today? Radio, movies, t.v., the 1930s trite movie magazines that morphed into the People, Us, and Hello (or men’s car and cigar and whatnot) magazines of today are the most reading the majority of people do today.

Those of us who love books, fight for free speech (not just free speech for those with whom we agree), real discussion, and real debate are a minority. So many of today’s books are DNFs [did not finish]. Important books do exist, some do read them, but many more are read in “executive summaries” that cover the “talking points.” This is tragic. Celebrities fighting for “safer social media” are really pulling the wool over followers’ eyes–they want it save for “their truth”–their “narrative,” without criticism. This is wrong. Slander and libel laws dictate what can and cannot be said–not celebrities who want an image at odds with their real life.

This book though–this, like Animal Farm, (or The Screwtape Letters) is perfect to read aloud with late elementary or middle school kids (my 6th grade teacher read us Animal Farm and helped us to discover on our own the parallels to real life–it was not a “unit study” with vocabulary words and model farms are trite intellectual garbage like that). This book will open the eyes of anyone who reads it to the further dumbing down of our society. Newt Minnow called TV a “vast wasteland.” He was right. Today, that is what much of publishing is. Adding in self-publishing to anyone who wants to pay, and we have a sea of intellectual pollution on par with the plastic straws in the ocean tragedy.

My Verdict

4.5

Very highly recommended

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa, translated by Louise Heal Kawai

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Nature Reading Challenge 2022

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This has been Challenge week here! I was happy to find each of them, but a Nature Reading Challenge really fits with my enjoyment of reading nature books. Thank you to blogger Gum Trees and Galaxies for hosting this one! And, thanks to blogger The Bookstop by Curly Geek for introducing me to it.  (Yes, I will make a list of all the challenges I mention this year–whether I participate or not).

Sign-up HERE please

There’s a fun bingo card to download, if you like, in this post.

What I Want To Read (so far):

I already plan to read another Stephen Rutt book, so there’s one–maybe two! Here is a link to my review of his book, Wintering.

The Seafarers came out in 2019, and The Eternal Season comes out on Kindle in May, in hardback late in the summer.

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In my recent post of Books I didn’t get to in 2021, I mentioned The Diary of a Young Naturalist as one I regretted not getting to. Since I own it, it will be a must-read this year for this challenge. How fun that this book is mentioned in the bingo card post linked above!

If you are new to nature reading, here are a books I recommend beyond Wintering, which I mentioned above.

That Quail, Robert  My mother read this aloud to us and I have reread it several times, but do not have a review of it to link to so the link is to Amazon.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Sound of A Wild Snail Eating

Hidden Life of Trees

Do you enjoy nature reading? Do you have favorite nature books? Leave me a comment or link to your own post–even you post for this or a similar challenge. Word-of-mouth (should that be “word of blog?”) is how most people learn of challenges and of good books!

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Nonfiction Reading Challenge Review #1: After the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport

My Interest

First, thank you to NetGalley for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

I started reading on the Romanov’s with Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert Massie in 1977. It’s a given that I’ll at least skim just about any book with their name in it. Plus, this one was a book I agreed to review on Netgalley and forgot about, so I needed to get that done.

The Story

There are two major stories here–what happened to some of the surviving Romanovs after Yekaterinburg and what happened to other, mostly aristocratic or otherwise high-ranking Russians who escaped Russia after the Bolsheviks came to power, the Civil War started, etc. The term “White Russians,” or those who were either pro-Tzar or just anti-Communist, is a generic term for most of them. It refers to the side they were on in the Civil War, not to race or ethnicity. The other story is various writers, dancers, artists and others in Paris at the time. Hemingway even gets a mention.

My Thoughts

Of all the author’s work, this to me is her weakest. Throwing names around about artists, then discussing Russian authors of the period who are barely known today just wasn’t that interesting to me. I DID however, LOVE reading how several aristocrats came to earn their living–especially the women and how various Romanovs ended up. I also found it fascinating that parts of regiments stayed together in exile, working together in French car factories! I also found it very interesting to see how the former aristocracy came to terms with their reduced circumstances. Attitude is everything and some just plain got on with life. I admire that. To me, this was the story–forget Hemingway and a few others. The artist or writer stories lack the sureness and polish of her Romanov chapters. Her gift is in writing social history as it relates to the Imperial Family.

My Verdict

3.5

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Review: Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh

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My Interest

Judy Leigh’s books are just plain fun. Enough said, but I found the audio of this one on Chirp for a reasonable price (I hope the author gets something??) and snagged it.

The Story

Lil is living a nice life in her apartment at a nice assisted living facility. She has breakfast everyday at a local cafe, has a good friend Maggie who lives next door with her boring husband Brian, and has her daughter Cassie nearby. So when a local 5-a-side soccer (football) team and a pub owner plan a bus trip (pre-Brexit) through parts France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, Lil signs herself Maggie and Cassie up.

In addition to Lil’s party and the soccer team, there are also snobby Ken and his two fellow tennis club members Sue and Denise and Emily whose Royal Marine boy friend is in the Middle East and Albert the quiet, overcoat-wearing father of the publican. They tour the D-Day battle fields, see Bruges, stay on a Belgian farm, and tour Amsterdam among other places. A nice combination of group events and personal time awaits the travelers. But none realizes all the things in store for them, the fun, the personal growth, a minor epiphany or two….And a love… [No Spoilers].

My Thoughts

My very first thought was “N#*kie” must be a less offensive term in the UK [England]. It really put me off–even if it was used in connection with a Jilly Cooper-like novel ******* In spite of this, which nearly made me throw the book back, I trusted my gut and what I knew of Judy’s books and kept on. I’m so glad I did. I loved Lil and Maggie, Cassy, Pat, even “SyUUU-e” (I loved this from the audio book performer) and Denise and Ken! While Ken was deliberately over-the-top, they were a believable bunch with believable lives and travel experiences. I especially liked Lil (to whom I could completely relate) when faced with some lifelong dream choices. I liked too, that the group was respectful of each other. They gathered together and had fun realizing that they might not all be besties at home, but they could get to know each other and enjoy a few minutes together on the road in a sincere way.

I love Judy Leigh’s books because no one is too old to try again, to find love, to have a great life. As I face unwanted unemployment on the eve of my 60th birthday, I needed this story to remind me that life isn’t over.

*****Americans: Jilly Cooper writes sexy romances set in the equestrian sports world of England. One of her characters is rumored to be based upon Andrew Parker-Bowles, ex-husband of Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla.

My Verdict

4 stars

Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh is $3.99 for Kindle right now.

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Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To

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Earlier, I posted about Books I Didn’t Get to Read in 2021 but Still Want to Read. Today I’m looking at books released in 2021 that I was interested in, but didn’t get to. I may still read them–making these lists I often forget a book I was interested in, so who knows?

One thing I noticed while looking back over the 2021 book releases is that there is very little diversity in book covers today. Now, I do not mean “diversity” in the racial or ethnic sense of people. I mean there are few cover designs out there today.

Another thing I noticed was that in addition to be wearing of female spies in World War II stories, I’m also just not that into psychological thrillers. I must be a heretic. I do not like to be frightened. I do not find it fun. I have enough stress in my own life without adding fictional stress.

Any way, here are my ten choices for this week.

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

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Japanese Literature Challenge #15 Review: Tales From the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi 2022 Audiobook Challenge Reivew

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Read all the Japanese Literature Challenge rules and reviews HERE.

Read the rules for 2022 Audio Book Challenge HERE or HERE

My Interest

You’re right–this isn’t a normal book for someone who doesn’t claim to like time travel, fantasy or sci-fi, but guess what? Last year I took a chance on Before the Coffee Gets Cold and loved it. Since this is the sequel, and it fits both of the challenges, well, no brainer, right?

The Story

In a certain basement cafe in Tokyo, when a certain patron leaves her table to go to the restroom, it is possible to sit in her chair and go back to a specific point in time. But, among the rules for such a trip are: a) you cannot do anything that will alter the future and, b) you must return before the coffee in that other patron’s cup grows cold. In this installment of the Tales we get a little more insight into how it works to go into the future–an option most people do not seek because of the other rule–the person you go to see in the past or future must visit the care.

This is a book that is very hard to review without spoilers. So, if you are sensitive to such things, consider this a SPOILER WARNING.

Whether it is the man who wants to give his wife a gift because she died at the wrong moment, or the man who wants to ease a friend’s mind about his child or ….Not telling all here–read it.

My Thoughts

It is very helpful to have read Before the Coffee Gets Cold, but I’m pretty sure you could manage this as a stand alone, too. I liked that in this installment we learned more about a few of the people in the cafe. I also loved that the tone was exactly the same in the sequel–it is an oddly comforting tone, especially in the audio versio. The story has sad moments, but nothing horrific or trauma-inducing, which is too rare these days. I liked that the believably is on par with a children’s story beginning “Once upon a time….” I often mention Sarah Addison Allen’s novel The Sugar Queen as an example of fantasy or magical realism that I like. These books are on par with that in terms of magic or fantasy or sci fi or time travel. If there is a third book I will happily read it, too.

Tales From the Cafe by  Toshikazu Kawaguchi

And, thank you to Marina Sofia who pointed out the insensitivity of Western readers who continue to put Japanese names backward. Honestly, I had no idea. Even my former Japanese emigre colleague never pointed out that he had switched his names around. I am not sure if this author’s name is correctly ordered or not. Everything I found showed it the way it is on the cover of the book. Maybe he has to accept that in order to be published and have interviewers in the West call him by the right name? Marina is right, it is pretty awful to do that to people.

4174AJ-RtVL._SY346_     My review of Before The Coffee Gets Cold: A Novel by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

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Review: Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow

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Thank you to Net Galley for providing a Kindle copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Interest

We’re a weird family. I’d guess cinnamon rolls or biscuits and gravy (or a trip to iHop) are the most popular Christmas breakfasts in very rural Southwestern Ohio, but we have everything bagels topped with smoked salmon, aka “lox,” cream cheese, capers, and red onion. It’s a mandatory part of Christmas just like the chocolate oranges and tuna fish for the cats. (WHERE do we buy this in very rural land? Kroger–we’re right outside the national HG and, if they are out, Jungle Jim’s at Eastgate carries it, but both run short at the holidays so someone else IS eating it or they don’t order very much–I suspect the latter.) I was looking at Net Galley while stressing with another shortage–the right cure of lox for our breakfast, when I saw this little cookbook and requested it.

The Story–or Contents

Wow! I was impressed. I could eat the pictures! Lox, herring (a childhood favorite of mine was herring in sour cream–yes, I was odd. My cousin got so sick one night from eating too much pickled herring she still can’t get near it and that was in 1971). The various cheese spreads are all delicious-sounding, though being almost in the South here (at least people are in culinary terms) Pimento cheese on a bagel might raise a few local eyebrows no matter how delicious it might be. Smoked whitefish salad? Bring it! Smoked trout spread? Yes, please. On and on with the foodie goodness of this little book. And the sandwiches? Huge piles of goodness between the two halves of the bagel. Forget going to a New York deli–enjoy them at home because this book lets you develop a bagel bakery AND deli in your own home.  But bacon on a bagel…..holy culture clash! Never mind, I know it will be delicious! Also covered are pickling your own lox or veggies and assembling a lovely bagel platters for guests on special occasions

In addition to the food, we also learn the story of the author’s family and of why she came to make her own bagels. It was an enjoyable little read.

My Thoughts

This one is a keeper! I will definitely be trying a few things–the Smoked Whitefish salad first up, I imagine, if I can get the fish.

One minor complaint, which may be related to the pre-publication status of the book was the index and some of the phots, were a mess. That’s a shame, but probably does not carry over into the published volume. And, it does not, however, keep you from enjoying all the great eating this book will inspire. You can read more at the author’s blog,

My Verdict

4 big bagels!

Bagels, Schmears, and a Nice Piece of Fish by Cathy Barrow is available for pre-order now to be delivered on March 15. 2022.

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Nonfiction Reader Challenge 2022

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Blogger Bookdout hosts this year-long answer to Nonfiction November. I like the idea of spreading challenges over a year. Especially in November, there are too many great challenges. This one lets you read ANY nonfiction book OR follow a monthly topic such as social history or popular science. You can use a title for more than one challenge, but if you are doing the topics then a book only counts in ONE topic.

What I REALLY like is the option to have a monthly reminder email to post your review! How cool is that?

Thanks also to Carla of Carla Loves to Read who alerted me to this challenge.

Read all the details HERE

Remember to use #ReadNonFicChal on social media to bring awareness to the challenge, please.

I should have no real problems with this one. I do not expect to do all the categories because I have little interest in reference books beyond as a librarian–they are rarely something I pick up for myself and never review them here, but there could be so esoteric one of interest I suppose. Economics, celebrities (royals except the one married to a red-haired prince are not celebs), language, geography, and popular science are not usually on my reading list, but who knows, right?  I am not at all sure how to cope with the category “Linked to a podcast” since I’ve never caught the podcast habit.

My suggestions for what to read in some of the various categories

(if desired) for nonfiction newbies or others

Categories:

1. Social History

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1939: The Last Season by Anne De Courcy is just $2.99 right now for Kindle. I’ve loved all of her books.

4. Medical Memoir

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Twelve Patients by Eric Manheimer

5. Climate/Weather

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The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

8. Geography

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Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond (I read the earlier edition)

12. Published in 2022

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The Palace Papers by Tina Brown

This one comes out in April. Her Diana book is the only Di book I recommend.

As always, leave me a comment or a link if you are participating!