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Search tags: in-by-about-america
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text 2017-11-22 19:04
16 Tasks for the Festive Season --9
1421: The Year China Discovered America (Audio) - Gavin Menzies

Square 2: Book themes for Bon Om Touk: Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river...


I love this book!!


In 1421, just before a period in their history of isolationism, the Chinese treasure fleet circumnavigated the globe, carefully mapping their progress. Shortly after their return, the emperor had the archives expunged of the now 'unnecessary' information that the fleet had gleaned. 



1421 is Gavin Menzies attempt to prove that the Chinese had already beaten Columbus and Magellan to the punch --and that in fact, they had used maps that were based on what the Chinese had found out. The tale of how he went about his painstaking research is interwined with what he has learned, and continues to learn, and both are absolutely fascinating. 



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text 2017-11-20 20:53
DNF at 30%
It Had to Be You - Delynn Royer

Such promise this book had. Such a tedious amount of work just to get to the 30% mark and I have already started and finished several books since starting this book. Calling it quits now.

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review 2017-11-17 16:58
Fathers and sons in America: A Matt Phelan Masterpost
Bluffton - Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

I had said in last week's post that today I'd be writing a Matt Phelan 'masterpost'. Typically this means that I cover 3+ books by a single author (or multiple authors writing together in a series). However, today I'm just going to talk about 2 books because honestly that's all I could get my hands on and so that's all I managed to read. :-) I picked up Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton and The Storm in the Barn with fairly high expectations based on the work I had seen by Phelan in the Comics Squad compilation I read and reviewed not too long ago. On the one hand, I was not at all disappointed. The illustration style is most definitely up my street. He is excellent at drawing evocative expressions on people's faces. I think where I was let down was on the overall reading experience. Let me take each of the books separately so that I can (hopefully) explain what I mean.


I read Bluffton first because it featured a circus and I am all about that circus lifestyle. Firstly, when I grabbed this book I somehow missed the subtitle and therefore was shocked to discover that one of the main characters in this book is that famous star of vaudeville, Buster Keaton. Secondly, I went into this book expecting a rollicking good time and instead got a somewhat borderline depressing narrative of what the childhood of Buster would have entailed since he was a performer from infancy. It's about the expectations that a parent has for their child and how those might be vastly different from the aspirations that the child holds for themselves. It's also about the nature of friendship and jealousy (especially when one of the friends is an itinerant performer). It's a coming of age tale that paints a rather grim picture of child stardom and how the experiences of our youth shape us into the adults that we will one day become.


Then there was The Storm in the Barn which I can only categorize as a Debbie Downer type of book. I'm not sure that this falls under any one genre. It's most certainly historical fiction as it depicts a little boy, his family, and his community as they struggle during the time of the Dust Bowl in Kansas circa 1937. However, it also contains fantasy elements of which I can't really go into without spoiling the plot... It's certainly rooted in reality because Phelan does not shy away from the harsh conditions that these characters face (don't even get me started on the rabbits). He covers bullying from both peers and parents. The protagonist is forced to watch a beloved sister struggle with a possibly fatal illness. The entire plot is fraught with tension and a dark cloud seems to hover over every page. What I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for a light read to send your tots to sleep at night then you should probably keep looking. BUT if you wanted to teach your kids about an era of history that's not usually dwelt upon in the classroom then this might indeed be the right selection for you.


I'd rate both books about the same. In terms of imagery and writing, they're both 10/10. The issue is that I held expectations about these books (as readers do from time to time) and I finished both of these feeling somewhat let down. I understand that not all books are going to be rosy, sweet, and fun. I know that not every book has a happy ending. And yet when these two books delivered hardship, sadness, and loss I was ill prepared and disgruntled. I can't honestly flaw these books and say that from a reviewer's standpoint they were faulty...but I still find it difficult to give them full marks just the same. Does this make sense? I guess my point is that a book can tick off all the boxes and still fall short based on the assumptions of the reader and/or their relative mood when they picked up the book. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Now let's take a look at Buster from Bluffton followed by a page from The Storm in the Barn:


Source: YouTube



Source: books4school


What's Up Next: Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day


What I'm Currently Reading: Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers by David Stabler

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-11-13 21:48
Can be found from other sources.
Wolf Whistle Politics: The New Misogyny ... Wolf Whistle Politics: The New Misogyny in America Today - Dr. Naomi Wolf,Diane Wachtell

This sounded like an interesting book and the idea of reading up specifically on misogyny in politics seems like a highly topical issue to read. It's a collection of essays from various women whose names you've probably heard of or whose bylines you've read in various publications and their thoughts about running for office, the role of women in politics, the battle women have in the media when running, what it can be like governing, what needs to be improved upon, etc. 


And that's about it. I can't lie and I have to admit I'm pretty disappointed. I didn't realize it was a collection of essays (perhaps I should have noticed how slim the volume is) which is not a reading preference for me. Initially I thought it might be something like an academic study of women in politics or a study of sexism and misogyny and how that affects women candidates and office-holders, etc. No, no such luck.


And aside from that, it appears that most, if not all of these pieces were originally published elsewhere. So therefore there's a pretty good chance you've read one or many or maybe even all of these at some place at some time. So, coupled with the fact that it was published in May of 2017 I couldn't help but feel that this didn't really give the reader anything new if they've been following the election and the current administration.


I think it does have value: if you're someone who's relatively new to politics or genuinely doesn't understand the frustration and struggles of women in office or aiming for office this could be a good resource. If you need a reference regarding women in the 2016 election and all the issues surrounding that topic this could also be a good book to keep on hand. But it should not be your only source and I could see an argument being made for skipping this entirely if you've already read many of these pieces or have access to the publications where these essays were initially published, etc. Library or bargain book.

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review 2017-11-10 14:04
Author doesn't have much to say.
Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America - Michael Ruhlman

Buy your groceries from the edges of the store. The store's layout forces customers to travel all around so you're encouraged to buy more. Don't go grocery shopping while you're hungry. Make a list. You've probably heard of these tips and tricks of grocery stores that are used to up profits and get people to purchase more products than one might not without them.


So when I picked up this book I was eager to find out more. Where does our food come from? How has buying and selling groceries have changed? What to make of developments like grocery delivery and pickup? How does this affect our food supply chain? How do we help areas that are food deserts?


Unfortunately this isn't any of that. As the negative reviews note, it's really a love story to a particular local grocery store chain and the author's experiences with it and a bit about food choices people make. The opening where he talks about his father and how his dad loved to go grocery shopping was very endearing and sweet. But in retrospect it didn't do much and the book goes downhill from there. This might have been a book for the author's father but unless you're very familiar with this area and store I'm not sure what someone would get out of it.


So the book is incorrectly titled and marketed, AGAIN. This drives me bananas. I also would argue that the author just isn't a good writer/needs a better editor. His name was familiar but it wasn't until after I put this down and looked him up did I realize that I've read 'The Soul of a Chef'. Overall the author seems like that he actually does have a good story to tell and there are certainly interesting sections or periods where he is quite interesting. But the book is empty and really isn't what it says on the cover. 


I'm genuinely surprised an editor let this through without hammering it out more, because there's a really great text and could have been more to say. Sadly, though, this book isn't it. I'd skip it unless you're like Ruhlman's dad or are very familiar with Heinen's.

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