Monday, September 22, 2014

Chef by Jaspreet Singh

Chef by Jaspreet Singh
Published April 2010 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: I have no idea - if you loaned me this one, let me know so I can give it back!

Publisher's Summary:
Kirpal Singh is riding the slow train to Kashmir. With India passing by his window, he reflects on his destination, which is also his past: a military camp to which he has not returned for fourteen years.

Kirpal, called Kip, is shy and not yet twenty when he arrives for the first time at General Kumar's camp, nestled in the shadow of the Siachen Glacier. At twenty thousand feet, the glacier makes a forbidding battlefield; its crevasses claimed the body of Kip's father. Kip becomes an apprentice under the camp's chef, Kishen, a fiery mentor who guides him toward the heady spheres of food and women.

In this place of contradictions, erratic violence, and extreme temperatures, Kip learns to prepare local dishes and delicacies from around the globe. Even as months pass, Kip, a Sikh, feels secure in his allegiance to India, firmly on the right side of this interminable conflict. Then, one muggy day, a Pakistani "terrorist" with long, flowing hair is swept up on the banks of the river and changes everything.

My Thoughts:
I'm a huge fan of books set in this region of the world but the books I've read have all been women's stories. Chef gave me a look at a new part of the Indian subcontinent from the male point of view.

In 1947, when the British abandoned their rule of the subcontinent, they split what was then Indian into the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Kashmir was connected to both India and Pakistan and has been, since the partition, a battle ground between the countries.

Kirpal Singh's story looks at the impact of that tug-of-war on the people of the region as Pakistanis battle Indians, Muslims battle Hindus. Through food, Kishen begins to teach Kirpal to look at the world more openly but it is when he falls in love with the "enemy" that he truly understands the futility of all of the violence and lost lives.

Despite some violence, this is, at heart, the quiet story of a quiet man whose beliefs are constantly shaken when those around him abuse their power and allow hatred to rule their lives.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Salon - September 21

Bloggiesta success! I've gotten so much done this weekend! Not much of it shows but I'll have my book reviews caught up and scheduled, four other posts are written and scheduled, my feed reader was empty as of midnight, I've spent a lot of time on my labels and they are looking much better (although I doubt I will get them entirely cleaned up yet), and I'm working on a mini-challenge that will be very noticeable in my family room (assuming I get it done). I'm not sure how much more I'll get done - I've got a lot of reading to do in the next couple of days before book club on Tuesday, company coming today, and The Big Guy gets back today from a work trip.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I started Sarah's Key this week. It's a book that switches back and forth in time and it's a little jarring on audio when it does that. Otherwise, I'm enjoying it.

Watching: The Roosevelts on PBS. So interesting and I've learned so much. Now I want to get to Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time and The Bully Pulpit. Oh yeah, and football.

Reading: I'm racing through The Perfume Collector before book club on Tuesday. I didn't know anything about it going in but I guess I was under the impression that it would be a little bit on the light side. Enjoying it much more than I expected.

Making: With BG gone and the kids at work so much this week, I haven't made much at all. Mini-me spent the day at home yesterday so I did make him some pizza and caramel chocolate brownies.

Planning: I started a book reorganization project as a mini-challenge that I need to get finished and I'll probably continue to tweak for the next week or so.

Grateful: I miss BG when he's gone but I've got to admit, I have enjoyed the quiet while he's been gone!

Enjoying: Saturday night with Miss H. She unexpectedly had the night off and we haven't gotten to have any time together in much too long.

Feeling: Like it's time to embrace fall. Even though I did have to turn the air-conditioning back on this weekend. Never mind - the fall decorating is going up and I had a pumpkin spice frappucino the other day.

Looking forward to: Book club Tuesday - love my evenings with these ladies!

What are you grateful for this week? Have you started to wrap your mind around the fact that fall is here?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bloggiesta - OLE!

With a knee that still doesn't allow me to do a lot of the bigger projects I should be doing on weekends (who knew that a meniscus repair would take so long to heal? not this girl, I'll tell you that!) and The Big Guy off on a business trip through the weekend (don't tell the bad guys who might try to break into my house that!), this is the perfect weekend for me to work on my blog. But I know me and I know I'll be distracted by a lot of bright and shiny objects along the way, including books I want need to read. So I'm not going to get overly ambitious with my plans. Here's what I'd like to get done:

1. Clean up my email - of course this is on the list, it's always on the list!
2. Write three book reviews - started all three
3. Check out the mini-challenges and try to do at least one **I've decided on my challenge but it will take some time so I'll do it tomorrow and post pics**
4. Solve my Nook problem - I've got too many books on my Nook I want to read soon
5. Write a Fairy Tale Friday post - started
6. Write a bookish news post
7. Catch up on my feed reader - I'm actually actually in pretty good shape with this for a change
8. Check out other bloggers who are participating to see what they are getting done
9. Spend some time cleaning up tags
10. Get my book club blog up to date
11. Write 2 Top Ten Tuesday posts - started

Okay, well maybe a little ambitious but many of these things won't take too long. No pressure; I'll get done what I get done.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
First Published 1964 (3 years after Hemingway's death)
Source: I paid for this one

Publisher's Summary:
Published posthumously in 1964, A Moveable Feast remains one of Ernest Hemingway's most beloved works. It is his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s, filled with irreverent portraits of other expatriate luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein; tender memories of his first wife, Hadley; and insightful recollections of his own early experiments with his craft. It is a literary feast, brilliantly evoking the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the youthful spirit, unbridled creativity, and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.

My Thoughts:
Who'da thunk it - the only Hemingway book I've ever read and actually enjoyed would be a memoir? If you're a Hemingway fan or even a person who feels like you "should" read Hemingway, I'd definitely recommend A Moveable Feast. As a look into life in Paris in the 1920's. As a window into the lives of several literary greats. And as a honest look into a few years of one young author's life.

I put this book on my nightstand and read a chapter at a time, each an individual story about an event, person, or part of Hemingway's life in Paris. Reading it this way is probably one of the reasons I appreciated this book as much as I did; I'm not sure I would have had I tried to just read straight through. Then I might not have appreciated gems like this:
"The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of early morning, sweeping out and mopping, and luck were all you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit's foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabbit's foot long ago and the ones and the sinews were polished by wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there."

The title, as the publisher's summary says, refers to a literary feast but I could easily have read it as part of Fall Feasting. Hemingway writes extensively about eating and drinking in the bistros and restaurants of Paris and other European cities he visited. I kept having the urge to go sit at a little table in a quiet cafe and while away the afternoon drinking wine and writing. While Hemingway and his wife, Hadley, were poor and he talks about going hungry and cold because of it, it's plainly clear that he knew it was the price to pay for living the life he wanted and never seemed to feel sorry for himself. It pained him more to be without books until he discovered the "library" in the legendary Paris bookstore "Shakespeare's." Hemingway was not just a writer, he was a voracious reader and I finally found at least one thing I could really like about him. That and his willingness to admit his flaws, including the infidelity that cost him his marriage to a woman who clearly adored.

I'm so glad I finally got brave enough to pick this book up!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
First Published 1925
Source: my audiobook was purchased at my local library book sale
Narrator: Virginia Leishman

Publisher's Summary:
This novel explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman's life, a day that is also the last day of a war veteran's life. Direct and vivid in her account of the details of Clarissa Dalloway's preparations for a party she is to give that evening, Woolf ultimately manages to reveal much more; for it is the feeling behind these daily events and their juxtaposition with the journey to suicide of Septimus Smith that gives Mrs. Dalloway its texture and richness.

A 1925 landmark of modernist fiction that follows an the wife of an MP around London as she prepares for her party that afternoon. Direct and vivid in its telling of details, the novel shifts from the consciousness of Clarissa Dalloway to that of others, including a shell-shocked veteran of World War I whose destiny briefly intersects with hers.

My Thoughts:
While Virginia Leishman's narration was wonderful, I really found this book difficult to listen to; it was just much too easy for my mind to wander and when I came back to the book it felt that I really hadn't missed anything. That's not a fault of the book; it's not a book meant to keep a reader rapt with action. In fact, there's very little action. And that was Woolf's point - the idea that there's a lot to be learned from the smallest actions of life.

Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours (which was inspired by Mrs. Dalloway), says of Mrs. Dalloway: "Mrs. Dalloway also contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English..." I feel like I missed that in listening to the book. So while I can say that I've read Mrs. Dalloway, I don't feel that I've really appreciated the book, as much as I enjoyed it. Somewhere on my bookshelves, I have a copy of this book and I'm almost certain to be picking it up and rereading this book one day. There is just so much to think about in the book and I feel like I didn't give it the attention it deserves.