Category Archives: Shelf Awareness

Book Review: Too Afraid to Cry, by Ali Cobby Eckermann

One of my reading goals for 2018 is to read more world literature. By that I mean fiction set in other countries, memoirs written by people of different backgrounds than mine, poetry that offers a broadened perspective, nonfiction that allows me to learn something new.

I’ve set this goal before but now, these tumultuous times demand more of an urgency, it seems. Plus, our library has a fantastic collection of world fiction with some of the most intriguing stories and I have no excuse (besides having more books than time) not to delve more deeply.

It was appropriate, then, that my first book read in 2018 was Too Afraid to Cry: Memoir of a Stolen Childhood, Ali Cobby Eckermann’s memoir of being part of the Stolen Generation. Between 1905 and 1969, children of Aboriginal descent were forced by the Australian government to leave their birth families. An estimated 100,000 people are among the Stolen Generation.

Eckermann was raised by loving parents but her childhood was marked by sexual abuse. She turned to drugs and alcohol at a young age, endured additional assaults, became pregnant at 18 and gave her son up for adoption. Too Afraid to Cry is her story, one written as a “poetic memoir” in stark, spare prose giving voice to all who were among the Stolen Children and those who have overcome adversity.

My full review of Too Afraid to Cry appears here, in today’s issue of Shelf Awareness.

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Talking with Mira T. Lee, author of Everything Here Is Beautiful

Everything Here is Beautiful is the story of two sisters, Lucia and Miranda, and how mental illness impacts their relationship throughout their lives. While their bond is at the heart of this novel, Mira T. Lee’s debut takes a 360 degree view of the effects that caring for a loved one with mental illness has on other close family members, like spouses and children. Finally, her decision to set Everything Here is Beautiful within the immigrant community allows people of all cultures to identify with others by seeing themselves in a narrative that too often focuses predominantly on a white, middle-class demographic.

The result is a novel that is getting significant well-deserved buzz this season. I read this in the waning days of 2017 as an advanced copy from the publisher and was thrilled to have an opportunity to talk with Mira T. Lee for a Shelf Awareness piece.

You can read my full interview with Mira T. Lee here.

Everything Here Is Beautiful
Mira T. Lee
Pamela Dorman Books
2018
368 pages

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

How to Instant Pot

You already know that I’m obsessed with my Instant Pot.  Chances are, you’re either giving one to someone for the holidays or you’re getting one for yourself.

It is a little intimidating at first, though, even for the most experienced of cooks. Daniel Shumski’s How to Instant Pot aims to shorten the learning curve by breaking down each function (pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, steamer) into its own section.

Few cookbooks have as definitive of a subtitle as this one. Indeed, it will help you master all the functions of the one pot that will change how you cook.

More of my thoughts on How to Instant Pot can be found here, in my full review in today’s issue of Shelf Awareness. 

 

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Book Review (by The Husband): Grant, by Ron Chernow

The Husband made his debut in Shelf Awareness yesterday as a published book reviewer. He took on the mammoth tome (more than 1,100 pages!) that is Ron Chernow’s Grant.

You can find his review here.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Book Review: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, by Caitlin Doughty

The Husband says that I have a morbid fascination with death.

And he’s absolutely correct.

For the longest time, I thought that it was perfectly normal to read the obituaries every day — at 15 years old. (What, didn’t every teenager do that?)

I have a Spotify playlist titled Funeral Songs that I’ve selected as my personal soundtrack for that occasion. There’s a file folder on my laptop with the exact photos I would like displayed.

Maybe it’s the former special events planner in me. Most likely, it’s something embedded deep in my psyche as a result of my father dying suddenly and unexpectedly at age 44, when I was 15. (Hence, the reason for the daily obit readings.) I should probably bring all this up to my therapist at some point, not like we’re lacking for agenda items. Regardless, these are important details that can’t be left to chance. Besides, The Husband says he’s grateful for this vital information because should he wind up being the one in charge of these logistics, he expects to be in no shape to do so.

As well he should be.

Needless to say, I was pretty certain that I was going to love reading From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty and it did not disappoint. Curious to learn more about other cultures’ approaches to death, Doughty traveled to remote corners of the globe (and several United States locales) to observe and participate in rituals that may initially seem bizarre and macabre, but are rich in tradition, dignity and deep meaning.

Let me tell you, this sounds like my kind of trip. I found myself feeling slightly envious of Doughty, getting to experience such Mexico’s Días de los Muertos parade (today is All Soul’s Day, hence the reason for telling you about this book today). She travels to Indonesia for the ma’nene‘, an elaborate annual ceremony where the mummified dead are exhumed after several years, outfitted with new clothes and marched around the village in house-like structures. Who wouldn’t want to see that?!

*adds seeing the ma’nene’ to Bucket List*

In Spain, families rent rooms in oratorios (chapels) and “spend the entire day with their dead, showing up first thing in the morning and staying until the doors close at 10 p.m.,” while the deceased is visible under glass. (Note to The Husband: plan on that for my funeral, please. An all day party sounds perfect.) Green burials are explored in North Carolina; an outdoor cremation on a natural pyre is held in Colorado. A swipe of a coded key card at Japan’s high-tech Ruriden columbarium allows mourners to instantly identify their loved one’s resting place among 600 other souls represented by an illuminated wall of Buddhas.

As I write in my Shelf Awareness book review, From Here to Eternity is my kind of book. Part travelogue, part memoir, and part commentary on America’s corporatized, sterile death industry, Doughty writes with a keenly sharp wit and wry humor.

This one has earned a spot on my Best Books of 2017 List, absolutely. For more, read my full review here.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
by Caitlin Doughty 
W.W. Norton
272 pgs.
2017 

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

The Grip of It, by Jac Jemc

Anyone who has ever moved into a new home knows that sometimes there’s just something a little bit … off … about some aspect of the house. I mean, if The Husband and I had a dollar for every time a perplexed contractor turned to us and said, “Well, I’ve never seen that before,” all the while knowing that they’re wondering what the fuck the previous owners were thinking and simultaneously thinking that we must be the stupidest schmucks alive, then we would be rich enough to own several vacation homes.

What? Just us? OK, well, then.

There’s something wrong with Julie and James Khoury’s new house. An odd, unexplainable sound. And then, even more troubling incidents. Unexplained bruises. Cryptic writing on the walls (literally). You know, the usual.

Their marriage is in trouble, too. James has a gambling addiction. They’re trying to make a fresh start. Oh, and Julie and James’ reclusive, eccentric neighbor seems to know something about what nobody seems to want to tell them.

The Grip of It is a psychological horror novel by Jac Jemc, which I was delighted to review in today’s edition of Shelf Awareness. It’s a quick, fast read, perfect for a rainy afternoon in autumn. If you’re participating in R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, this would be an excellent choice to add to your reading queue this season.

 

 

Thanks for sharing this post!
0

Two Perfect Late Summer Reads

With the turn of the page to August, it seems like summer’s pace has a way of intensifying. What better time, then, to savor what remains of this time through a perfect summer read that offers just the right blend of substance without being too heavy and dark.

Here are two books that I recently reviewed for Shelf Awareness that would be perfect for summer days at the beach, by a lake or wherever you seek rest and relaxation.


Cocoa Beach sweeps readers across war-torn Europe to the tropical landscape of Central Florida in this breathtaking family drama set amid the backdrop and aftermath of World War I.  Bootleggers, bandits, criminals and conspirators are in abundance here, along with unconsummated marriages, grand estates and deception galore.

This was the first book I read by Beatriz Williams (who I also had the pleasure of interviewing for this piece in Shelf Awareness) and it won’t be the last. If you enjoy historical fiction spiced with romance and danger, Cocoa Beach is definitely where you want to be.

Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams
William Morrow
2017
384 pages

Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo captures the silver screen era with such luminosity that it is easy to forget that these are fictional actors and actresses. Evelyn Hugo’s seven marriages have been tabloid fodder for decades, but now that she is approaching 80, she intends to reveal all about the one true love of her life and hires a relatively unknown writer, Monique Grant, to pen her biography.

I’ll admit to judging The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by its cover, assuming this was going to be a light, frivolous romance. I was wrong. It’s a fast-paced read with much more substance here than one might think.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Atria Books
2017
400 pages

Visit Shelf Awareness for my full review of Cocoa Beach (as well as to read my interview with Beatriz Williams) and my full review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.

I am an Amazon Affiliate. Some links may take you to Amazon’s shopping pages. By making a purchase, I will receive a small commission which helps to sustain this blog, its content and its author.

Thanks for sharing this post!
0