Author Archives: PauletteMitchellLein@comcast.net

WHAT’S IN YOUR BOOKSTACK?

That bookstack beside your bed or next to your favorite reading chair or wherever it piles up changes and surprises.

Here’s what mine suddenly looks like this week.

Neverhome by Laird Hunt
The story of a female serving as a soldier in the Civil War. This is my second reading and provides prep for my new writing project. It is a most interesting read. I have no trouble reading it a second time.

The Other Einstein, a novel by Marie Benedict.
Reading right now for my Michigan book club. So far it seems a bit predictable, but too early for such a conclusion. Must keep reading. The mystery is at least in part: How could anyone fall for Einstein?

Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
For the Florida book club. A transgender girl’s coming-of-age-story. This is highly recommended and I’m not sure why it keeps falling off my stack.

The Alice Network, a novel by Kate Quinn
If I’m not mistaken this was sent to me free from Amazon in my last order. According to the cover blurbs a spy network in the First World War and more of the story decades later in 1947. It does look like it might be my cup of tea.

In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America 1859-1863 by Edward Ayers
Will this be helpful for research prep for my writing project? Not sure. It promises ground level social history but not sure it takes me to the right part of the country.

Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko
Loved Pachinko so much I couldn’t resist ordering this one.

The Floating World, A Novel by C. Morgan Babst
Class, race and trauma in post-Katrina New Orleans: Seems to be a time and place I find fascinating. This is another one that is highly recommended by some. I shall see.

History Lover’s Cookbook: Over 150 full-color photos inspired by nineteenth century recipes, anecdotes, and the Civil War by Roxe Anne Peacock
More historical info. People have to eat wherever they are.

Blood In the Water by Heather Ann Thompson
This one is still anchoring my stack, nonfiction about the Attica Prison uprising.

Leave a reply and share what is new or still lurking in your stack.

MIDWEEK QUOTE

“We all benefit from learning how to respond to grief in ways that don’t prolong, intensify or dismiss the pain. Likewise, those trying to help need to know that grief cannot be fit into a preordained time frame or form of expression. Too often people who experience a loss are disparaged because their mourning persists longer than others think reasonable or because they remain self-contained and seem not to mourn at all.” Jane L. Brody

In response to Brody’s article “Understanding Grief, and Living Through It.”

Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever is happening in your life, find ways to add to your energy bank. Reading and writing add to mine. What a blessing.

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PACHINKO IS A GAME OF CHANCE

Pachinko
Author: Min Jin Lee
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback Edition: 479 pages plus Reading Group Guide and Author Interview
Source: Personal copy

In the very early years of the twentieth century, the young daughter of a poor, crippled fisherman in Korea becomes involved with a handsome wealthy stranger. When she discovers she is pregnant and her lover is unable to marry her, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle minister passing on his way to Japan. Her new life in Japan is different than the reader imagined it might be.

And so a complex and stunning story of life as an immigrant family unfolds. Never before has it become so clear what the struggle and sacrifice of immigration can be, not only for the first generation who live in a new country, but for the generations that follow. The clarity of this story, and what it takes to survive as a member of a persecuted minority takes the reader by surprise.

The fact that so many are not aware of the history between Korean and Japanese peoples heightens the interest and emotional complexity of this story. This book is a National Bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Award and easily the best book of the year for many. Certainly this author is among the finest novelists you will ever have a chance to read.

Every character a work of art, a setting so carefully and totally brought to life, conflict both exciting and sorrowful, all this and more fills the pages of this addictive family saga. More than any other read in my personal experience, Pachinko enables me to begin to know and feel more than I ever thought possible about the immigrant life and how one group of people discriminates so horribly against another. Perhaps it seems instructive in this regard because to many readers it is a new perspective on a situation that plagues humans with more cost than the rampant illnesses from the middle ages.

It is a book that reminds us how family members demonstrate love for one another, over and over, through difficult times. Next time dear reader that you shake your head about the inhumanity people show for one another, read Pachinko. Your faith in your fellow humans will begin to be restored. You are likely to have a new respect for the meaning of human endurance.

A few years ago I wrote about the experiences of my Scottish foremothers transplanted from Scotland to the unsettled prairies of Iowa. I thought how they just continued keeping-on, endurance played the keynote of their lives. They must tip their bonnets to Koreans who live in Japan and to ever other immigrant group who find themselves denigrated by those who live around them. Here in the United States we often blame our fellow humans with a skin color different than our own for some of the grave difficulties that beset their lives. We think those from other ethnic groups can easily go back to where their parents and grandparents once lived.

Pachinko informs not just the head, but also the heart; the reader cannot stop thinking about the issues, all the while with a heart filled to bursting with multiple emotions. It is quite simply a wonderful story. It took this reader to places I did not know I wanted to go. I cannot remember when I have been so affected and so jubilant with the reading a story, especially one filled with so much sadness. It may prove to be my favorite of all time.

SHRIMP SAUTE UPDATE

Finally I prepared the recipe I posted on the food page last week.

It was delicious: tangy with garlic, lemon, shallot and other well-blended flavors. The sauce was buttery and complimented the green beans, tomatoes and feta cheese strewn on top.

Here’s the real test. I just did not want to stop eating. The flavors blended so well. And the shrimp were particularly delish. I guess the ten minute marinating paid off.

This shrimp sauté with add-ons is so easy and quick to make. And I loved it with the rice.

If you are cooking for one or two people, you can prepare everything in the skillet at once. Well the shrimp are cooked first, set aside, and then added at the end. If you are incorporating the rice as I did you would use cooked or left-over rice.

Use the menu at the top, go to the food page of this blog and take another look at the recipe.

Now a word about the shrimp I used. I am still in frozen Michigan where temps continue to plunge and snow continues to fall. (It has become very monotonous.) So you know I probably did not use fresh gulf shrimp. Don’t I wish?

This frozen product I have been using (pictured above) is excellent in taste and texture. I have been using it for quite some time to complete satisfaction. I believe it is sold all over the United States with the shrimp sourced responsibly from different locations. My current package says from India.

There was a time when I would not eat any shrimp from Asia or nearby locations. This product has changed my mind.

Whatever shrimp you are able to use. This preparation is one of the best! Go for it!!

WHICH OF THESE TEN WOULD YOU RECOMMEND TO YOUR BOOK CLUB?

(all book blurbs lifted from the nearest convenient source – first time ever not to credit, but some simply not available.)

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
This is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey.”

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amer Towles
In 1922 Count Alexander Rostov cannot leave his hotel.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
A powerful meditation on what immigrants sacrifice to achieve a home in the world. A story of Koreans in Japan in the twentieth century.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Spiced with unexpected magic, this imaginative love story follows a young couple who join a wave of migrants as their city collapses.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
A captivating story of three women and their secrets amid the ashes of Nazi Germany.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
An unusually well written and emotionally satisfying page-turner beginning with a 12-year-old in depression-era New York City.

The Dry by Jane Harper
A mystery and so much more set in Australia.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

A Robotics programmer leaves Michigan for a job in California where she develops her bread-baking technique and soon her sourdough starter seems to have a life of its own.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
The complex story of two families and an adoption scandal in 1940’s Tennessee.

Prairie Fires: the American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. (biography) by Caroline Fraser
This fascinating nonfiction of the life of this beloved author honors the 150th anniversary of Wilder’s birth.

TWO HOT SELLING PICTURE BOOKS

Christmas has come and gone and I did not send a book to my 3 year old granddaughter. This situation must be remedied. After all if her book shelves overflow, her parents can give away some of her books.

So not being in the book store, I ordered two best selling picture books I thought she might like. Maybe I’ll send one along to her now, and save one for later.

Dragons Love Tacos
Authors: Adam Rubin with illustrations by Daniel Salmieri
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012
Genre: Picture Book
Hardcover Edition
Source: Personal Copy
www.tacocave.com

This story is presented with color and humor. It sticks to the topic and is filled with adjectives kids will love. It also includes topics for discussion among the primary set such as: tummy troubles, all about dragons, how to make tacos, what happens when you eat hot peppers and more.

Would you like to keep dragons in your back yard? Are you planning a taco party? I’m guessing primary age children could talk about this book for quite a while.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Authors: Andrea Beaty, with illustrations by David Roberts
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013
Genre: Picture Book
Hardcover Edition
Source: Personal Copy

Rosie, blond hair hanging over one eye, dreams of becoming a great engineer. Readers follow Rosie as she creates from cast off gadgets and gizmos and hides her machines under the bed. Rosie is inspired by her great-great-aunt Rose. And this story has a lesson (as so many do). “the only true failure can come if you quit.”

This book will be enjoyed by a large range of ages from 3 year-olds to 10 year-olds. The illustrations are one of the reasons. They include so much material that will continue to interest youngsters who love to invent and dream as they get older.

One reviewer had this to say: “Written in delightful verse and filled with sneaky histories of women in aviation, it’s perfect inspirational material for young makers.” And from Publisher’s Weekly, “comically detailed mixed-media illustrations…keep the mood light and emphasize Rosie’s creativity at every turn.”

Which book is going in the mail to Jessica? Probably Rosie since Jessica, too loves to build and dreams of being an engineer; and she has blond hair that swoops over her eve on one side of her face. I hope she likes this book and the crazy, coloful pictures by David Roberts.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN: A RECIPE AND HIS READS


This pasta dish is from ancient Rome and Bourdain’s recipe is all over the internet with multiple videos. I watched. I was inspired. I tried it a few days ago.

My notes were so unreadable I was mostly by-gosh and by-guessing it. And you will be too if you follow what I write here. Still, I enjoyed the results. Probably it is good if you like pepper. The recipe, as copied by me, is at the end of this post

According to a recent interview in the New York Times, Bourdain say “one of the benchmarks of a great food writing is to be very knowledgeable, but never a snob.” I’m never a great food writer, but I do try to follow this advice. His most famous book is Kitchen Confidential (which I have not read). His latest book is Appetites, out last year. I’ve yet to look at that one, too. But I have good intentions.

What took my attention in his interview was that he called Charles Portis’s True Grit, a masterpiece and named it as the last great book he had read. It is one of my all-time favorites. He mentioned the dialogue. I completely agree and am always going on about: if you want to know how people talked in the Old West, read this book. Since Bourdain loves this book, I am now his greatest fan. Two other authors he named as worthy are favorites of mine: Elmore Leonard and Daniel Woodrell. And in addition James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces made him furious it was so bad, piled with falsehoods. Again, I could not read that book without losing my lunch in the bathroom. Well, that’s a bit strong and snobbish, but true.

So, now that I’ve bonded with Bourdain over his reading preferences, I had to try his favorite pasta dish, cacio e pepe. And I’ll be looking up his books.

Anthony Bourdain’s cacio e pepe
Transcribed by Paulette from internet videos

In a small to medium skillet, heat 1-2 Tablespoons oil and ½ teaspoon pepper until it sizzles. This doesn’t take long and is easy to burn. (Anyhow that’s what happened to me.) set it aside, off the heat.

In a larger skillet put about ¼ pound spaghetti and water just to cover along with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring some, until al dente. My package said 9 minutes and it was just right. Drain the pasta and save the pasta water.

Into the larger skillet, put a few tablespoons of pasta water, and 1 Tablespoon of butter and the olive oil pepper mix. Add the cooked, drained pasta and 1-2 ounces good freshly grated Parmesan.

Shake and stir. Add pasta water if needed, a splash at a time. Serve on plate, drizzle with oil if desired and top with more grated cheese, another tablespoon or two.

For me, too much cheese is impossible, but perhaps not.

Post created by me, the new Anthony Bourdain fan.

TIME: BOOK COMMENT ON A WRINKLE IN TIME

A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1962, 2007
Genre: Science Fiction, Children’s Literature,
Paperback Edition: 232 pages, plus an interview with the author and the author’s Newbery Medal Acceptance Speech
Source: Personal Copy

This classic, a Newbery Winner, was published in 1962. According to an article in a recent Smithsonian, Wrinkle has sold more than ten million copies and been turned into a graphic novel, an opera and two films. The new film from director Ava DuVernay is expected in March. Among others, starring roles feature Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey. It was a hard-to-categorize novel that took some time to find a publisher. Many hated it until the prestigious Farrar, Straus and Giroux took it on.

These stats don’t tell of the many young woman who have enjoyed the book and been inspired by Meg’s finding her own bravery. Fantasy has never been my favorite genre. I usually avoid it. But there is more to this book than any category can describe. This tale is also more than a coming-of-age story of one young girl wondering how to get along in the world. Meg Murry goes on a search for her absent father traveling through time and space with the help of her brother Charles Wallace, her new friend Calvin, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.

Author Madeleine L’Engle believed that “literature should show youngsters they are capable of taking on the forces of evil in the universe, not just the everyday pains of growing up.” (Smithsonian). The famous quotes that are sprinkled throughout the text are great fun for those of us of all ages! And there is much philosophy to ponder, so the book is not all science. I share a strong belief with L’Engle. She once wrote: “If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children.”

I believe the lines of age disappear when we read and discuss literature, whether a picture book, a chapter book, or a so-called adult novel. With that in mind and to prepare for the movie, I reread and re-enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time.

I hope you will too.

THOUGHTS ON THE LAST DAY OF 2017

The holidays have taken our minds away from our reading. Busy with friends and families and other year-end tasks our minds are awhirl. Only a very few (how’s that for redundancy) responded to a recent blog about their reading plans in the New Year.

Forced inside today by a Winter Weather Advisory I must face up to taking down my Christmas decorations. Seems a good time to give a shout-out of THANKS to my much-loved granddaughter who decorated my fireplace mantel with some of my Santa collection. How I have enjoyed what she put together. I know Santa is not the heart of Christmas, but I have always loved Santa art of almost any kind, the more frivolous the better. Somehow it lifts my spirits.

I confess at first I was slightly disappointed she did not do the mantel as she has the last two years, with some fake greenery and lights. Turns out I liked the Santa display even better. My pictures certainly don’t do her display justice. Those small porcelain Santas are antique, from my mother’s side of the family; they have said Merry Christmas to many people for more years than I can count.

Wishing each of you a good last day of 2017. Along with the-not-so-great and worse, there is much to be grateful for. Make a gratitude list and you will be reminded. Even as a way to fight the horrors of grief, a gratitude list is worthy ammunition. Hugs to all.

Happy New Year Wishes come along tomorrow.