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Lee's Library

I read to escape and to learn.  I like science fiction, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers and adventure stories. 

Currently reading

Hunting Season
Nevada Barr
The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker, 12 Quilt Projects
Elizabeth Hartman
The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events: A Seth Book
Jane Roberts, Seth (Spirit), Robert F. Butts

Burial Rites

Burial Rites - Hannah Kent

Wow, has my year of reading started off with a bang.  I’ll start with the easy part.  Iceland is a country I’ve always wanted to visit.  Learning more about its history, farming culture, and the wild landscape has piqued my interest even more. I was fascinated and at times repelled by some of the butchering and slaughter scenes described on the farm.  Although many of the place names were unpronounceable (to me), I didn’t let myself get snagged or bothered so as not to break the flow of the narrative.  

 

Agnes’ story unfolds slowly as she recounts her history to the naive assistant priest who has been sent to spiritually counsel her before the execution.  At the beginning and end of several chapters are letters and documents from 1829, records of the actual event which in themselves are quite revealing.

 

I was expecting something dreary and depressing but from the first few pages I felt my gut churning and could not put the book down. Knowing that the book was based on a true story with a sad outcome did not prepare me for the depth of emotion that hit me as I read late into the night.  I very quickly became enraged by the inhumane and degrading treatment of Agnes as a prisoner.  The further into the book I got, the more invested I became in finding proof of her innocence.  Her intelligence and spark made her a target for the corpulent, and self important man who was her judge and jury.  As I write this, I am infuriated anew.  I am reminded of the horrible treatment of women throughout history especially when they did not conform to rigid codes of pious behavior.

 

This book screams and tears at me from start to finish.  My tears are not only for Agnes who I know was a living, breathing, person but for all the countless women whose stories of unjust imprisonment, humiliation, abuse, and torment will never be told.  I think the author did an incredible job weaving a believable account from the history.  I say bravo!  This is one story that will stay with me for a very long time. 

A Charming School Story

The Warden"s Niece - Gillian Avery

This is the delightful story of a young orphan named Maria.  After escaping the terror and shame of an incident at her boarding school, she goes to live with her uncle, the warden of one of the Oxford Colleges. She manages to get in several scrapes with the three boys living next door who she has been sent to take lessons with. The wonderful and comic figure of their temporary tutor Mr. Copplestone, (he's apparently eight feet tall!) had me giggling all throughout the story. Maria lives in equal fear of the housekeeper Mrs. Clomper and of being sent back to her boarding school so she embarks upon an investigation at a local historical house in order to impress upon her uncle that she is a serious scholar. This was great fun and highly recommended for those who love old-fashioned children's stories.

Patience Rewarded

Life After Life - Kate Atkinson

This is a beautiful book that requires a patient reader. I almost gave it up despite the lovely writing but somewhere around page 200 I became fully engaged.  The story follows the life of an Englishwoman named Ursula Todd, born in 1910.  Her life begins and ends several times before things begin to get interesting.  I particularly enjoyed reading about Ursula's wartime experience during the Blitz in London.  

While reading, I did find myself thinking about how the smallest decision can change the direction of a life and so I think the author was successful with her experiment.  I tend to enjoy books that are somewhat depressing in tone with a hint of underlying hope.  I believe that our lives are self determined whether we're aware of our own beliefs or not. It was interesting to read about a character who slowly became (semi) conscious of her own history and how that played out in the story of her life.

Off Topic: The Story of an Internet Revolt

OFF-TOPIC: The Story of an Internet Revolt by G.R. Reader - G.R. Reader

Thank you to all of the contributors of this book, I was deeply affected by reading it. What makes it wonderful is the same thing that made Goodreads so special to all of us - the diversity, the passion, and the community. This isn’t a business for us, it’s a place where book nerds from all corners of the world come together and feel, or until very recently, felt at home. I personally have found acceptance, friendship, laughter and inspiration here. I am sad to say that the events described in this book have altered my participation.

Some of the reviews and commentary compiled in the book are brilliant and funny. Some of the “off topic” reviews made me cry (A review of “Christy”, page 146). They clearly illustrate exactly why the new Goodreads policy makes no sense. The goodbye letters are heartbreaking and personal. I could identify with every single one. I encourage people to continue speaking out and sharing this work even if you think it has nothing to do with you. You will be moved and you will be affected.

Thank you again to all who contributed.

The book is currently available for free in PDF form here:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18749172-off-topic

 

The Creative Commons license means you're legally allowed to make copies and share it with your friends.

Quote o' the Day

Reblogged from Bashara Likes Books:

 

I couldn't live where there were no trees -- something vital in me would starve.

 

-- L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams

 

 

Vorkosigan Blues

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance - Lois McMaster Bujold

I've been looking forward to reading book #15 in Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga for quite some time.  I have a feeling the series will not continue on much longer, it's losing a bit of steam as they tend to do.  These books have provided me with much comfort and reading pleasure - a little action, interstellar intrigue, romance and some good laughs.   There's nothing like picking up the first book in what you know is a long series and feeling the thrill and anticipation of several good books ahead of you.   I'm feeling sad that it's coming to an end. 

 

What's next?  Does anyone have anything comparable to recommend? 

"Past Tense": A New Group for Everything History-Related (Reblogged from Themis-Athena)

Reblogged from Themis-Athena's Garden of Books:

... whether in nonfiction, fiction written by the great clasical authors of the past, or historical fiction. Everything from the Big Bang to the first half of the 20th century! The more cross-genre and cross-period discussion we're going to have, the better.  Please come and check it out!

Charming Mystery

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (A Flavia de Luce Mystery #2) - Alan Bradley

Eleven year old Flavia has done it again!  Outsmarted the local constabulary, saved the day with an extremely creative, chemical concoction and solved another murder accompanied by her trusty bike Gladys.  She pedals around the village and surrounding countryside, ferreting out secrets and succeeds where the kind but stern, Detective Inspector fails.

 

This second book in the Flavia de Luce series set in 1950’s rural England drew me in immediately and has just as much, if not more charm than the first.  I found myself giggling as well as sympathizing with the brilliant but emotionally vulnerable young heroine.  If you’re looking for a charming, cozy, mystery with a few laughs thrown in, I highly recommend The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

The Janus Stone

The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway #2) - Elly Griffiths

This is a solid follow-up to the first book introducing the independent and intelligent forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway.  I'm happy a few of the more interesting characters are back and am now fully invested in continuing with the series.  Easy reading, no gore, a great setting and just enough spookiness and suspense with these mysteries.  Perfect comfort reading for me

Night Soldiers - Atmospheric and Authentic

Night Soldiers - Alan Furst

Alan Furst is an elegant writer.  Despite jumping around Europe and flashing back and forth between several characters, the narrative never lost my interest.  I believe Night Soldiers is one of the first in a series of many, excellent espionage books, written by Alan Furst, set leading up to and during the second world war.  The feeling of authenticity and historical detail is fantastic.  I have read a few of his more recent books and am now starting back at the beginning to read them in order.

Artisan Vegan Cheese

Artisan Vegan Cheese - Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner

I'm tempted to give this book five stars just from my first quick read through but will wait and try a few recipes first.  I think this book is an excellent resource for those who want to try their hand at non-dairy recipes for cheese. 

read more »

Vegan Eats World

Vegan Eats World: 300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet - Terry Hope Romero

This book has gotten me excited about cooking again.  After a hot summer, reluctant to even enter the kitchen, cooler weather along with a re-awakened appetite has hit with a vengeance.  My desire to get busy preparing warm stews, spicy curries and delicious dumplings was instantly ignited as I paged through the recipes in Terry Hope Romero's new book, Vegan Eats World: 300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet.

 

The book has a hard cover and is similar in size, layout and feel to Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.  The writing style and instructions are straightforward and clear.  The photos are beautiful, the food is set off nicely by rustic backgrounds and I’m definitely tempted to try a few things that normally wouldn’t appeal to me just from looking at the photos. 

 

There are many things I like about Vegan Eats World.  I’m happy that in some recipes, for harder to find ingredients, she gives a replacement option.  There are several designations that make sorting through the over 300 recipes easier.  Symbols indicate one or more of the following; quick preparation (under 45 minutes), longer cooking time (mainly inactive), cheaper ingredients, good beginner recipes, low fat, gluten free, and soy free recipes.

 

In part one, titled Kitchen Cartography, the section describing regional ingredients was the most interesting to me.  Where I live in Ontario, sumac trees grow everywhere so I was excited to learn about sumac powder and za’atar which are middle eastern spices.  Other intriguing sounding ingredients I look forward to trying are Chinese Black Vinegar, Thai Golden Mountain Sauce and Gochuchang, a “sweet, spicy and tangy” Korean red chili paste.  A trip to the Asian market is always a fun experience and it’s helpful to know what to pair these ingredients with.

 

Also included in this section are commonly used ingredients in vegan cooking that you can find in most grocery or natural food stores.  A primer on cooking equipment, cooking techniques, descriptions and some adorable drawings for dicing and slicing veggies and shopping lists for ethnic markets are useful sections for less experienced cooks.

 

You will need access to ethnic markets for some ingredients.  This author has already written a cookbook focused on Latin cuisine, a few are included here but this book mainly showcases recipes from Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.   A well stocked pantry will be useful if you plan on using this book extensively ( I certainly do!).  I was thrilled to see a chapter called Dumplings, Breads and Pancakes.  Pot-stickers are a particular favourite of mine and I’ve always wanted to take the time to make vegan versions of these plump, savoury, snacks.

 

I began listing recipes that caught my attention but there are so many I won’t list them all.  Here’s a small sampling of what you’re in store for!

 

Seitan Coriander Cutlets Cilantro Chutney Coconut Chile Relish Thai Shredded Mango Salad Coconut Kale Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce Ninja Carrot Ginger Dressing Garlicky Potato Dip Creamy Walnut Red Pepper Spread Chile Potato Rolls in Homemade Paratha Bread Sweet and Savory Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos Ginger Tomato Chickpeas Coconut Black-Eyed Pea Curry Tofu and Potato Adobo Stew Spicy Saucy Soft Tofu (Ma-Po Tofu) Eggplant Shakshuka with Green Tahini Sauce Deluxe Tofu Vegetable Mafe Garlic Chive Seitan Potstickers Shanghai Kale Dumplings in Sesame Sauce Afghan Pumpkin Ravioli with Spicy Tomato Sauce Spinach Coriander Roti

 

Can you say yum?

 

So far, I’ve managed to prepare two dishes; Savory Baked Tofu which was easy and delicious and the Flying Massaman Curry, also very good and even better the next day.

This is not the book you would grab for a hurried weeknight supper unless you have a very well stocked pantry.  I’d definitely recommended it for anyone interested in international cuisine, for plant based eaters who are looking to explore new flavours and people who like to entertain.  I look forward to taking my time exploring Vegan Eats World for a long time to come. 

 

Thank you to De Capo Lifelong press for providing an ARC. 

Half Star Happy Dance!

Is it silly to be so happy about having the ability to rate books with half stars???   No more agonizing over rounding up or rounding down!   Whooeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell, Angus Easson, Sally Shuttleworth

This is by far, my favourite Victorian novel I’ve read to date.  The tension mounts slowly and deliciously as our heroine is prevented from acting by the social constraints of her time.  Misunderstandings and false assumptions abound until the reader’s patience is tenderly rewarded.  Elizabeth Gaskell creates in her female protagonists a wonderful combination of sweetness and strength.  I don’t know that such women exist but it sure is satisfying to immerse yourself in such a world for a few hours.

All Passion Spent

All Passion Spent - Vita Sackville-West

I found this to be a thoughtful novel about a woman who finally gets to live as she pleases following the death of her husband upsetting the plans of her pompous and calculating children.

The middle part of the book focuses on her contemplation of the past; her life always in the background as the wife of a prominent and charming politician.  I found this section to be quite sad as she reflects upon how her spirit was subsumed by the role of wife and mother for the majority of her life.  Some of the most charming scenes in the book are the conversations between her French maid of 60 years and the estate agent/owner of her retirement home as she lives out her days thumbing her nose at convention.     

Reviewed December 2009

Miss Mole - I love you!

Miss Mole - E.H. Young

Oh Miss Mole, you long suffering thing.   Honestly, I don’t know how you do it.   Suppressing all of that intelligence, wit and humour takes a lot of energy and I don’t blame you for the occasional outburst.   Do not judge yourself so harshly.   You are not the type of person who can suffer fools gladly.   You squirm internally while looking dutiful.   I wish you had been MY companion or housekeeper.  I would have been so grateful for your love and attention.  You are a fabulous character who deserves to be happy. (And your love of fine shoes is so endearing!) 

What a shame that your secret past is about to undo all the fine work you’ve done with this poor screwed up family.  Dare we hope for you?  How will it all end?

 

Reviewed May 30, 2009