Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Marcelo in the Real World --by Francisco X. Stork

Fiction, Young Adult
312 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: None
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

This prize winning book is one Rainy Day would not have picked up without prodding, more's the shame. Rainy Day tends not to read a lot of YA novels, because she writes YA novels, and while many who write them, read them, Rainy Day is one who normally avoids fiction in her genre, as many authors do.

However, Rainy Day signed up for a class in March, and one of the homework assignments was to read Marcelo in the Real World, and Rainy Day is very glad she did at least that much of her homework (the rest of the homework will come).

The story takes place between Marcelo's Junior and Senior years in high school. He is a high functioning Asperger's, and has spent his school years in a protected school, and now his father, a partner in a law firm, wants Marcelo to come into the real world. Marcelo must deal with giving up his coveted summer job at Patterson School where he would work with the horses and go to work in his father's law firm, working in the mailroom. His father promises that if he does well, he may return to Patterson for his senior year, otherwise, he must attend the local public high school.

Rainy Day knows a little about high functioning Asperger's – very little. She has known a few such people in her life, and she opened this book with some trepidation. So many of the YA novels Rainy Day has read in the past have such downer endings (another reason she doesn't read them), she really did not want to invest time, or emotion, in Marcelo only to have it end as a downer. Rainy Day was pleasantly surprised when she finished the book. Very pleasantly surprised.

This is an engrossing story of a young man coming of age in the real world. In an unsentimental way, Marcelo learns about jealousy, competition, anger, and honor. Rainy Day enjoyed this book tremendously, and recommends it to anyone, young or not, who wants to read a good story, and just might learn a bit about how people who are different, not less, think and act.

Bravo and Kudo's to Francisco X. Stork.

For information on high functioning autism, click here to read about Dr. Temple Grandin

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Imagine There's No Heaven

Imagine There's No Heaven: Voices of Secular Humanism –ed. by Matt Cherry, Tom Flynn and Timothy Madigan

102 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: None
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

This little book contains interviews of, and essays by, 11 of the great Humanists of today.  If you are a Believer in (insert religion of choice), Rainy Day does not think you will like this book. However, if you are seeking answers in the rational world of Freethinkers, this may be a book for you.

Rainy Day admits she isn't sure how to review a book by 11 different authors, or contributors. She has a hard enough time with a book by just one person. The contributors include Peter Ustinov, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others Rainy Day had never heard of, like Tai Solarin, Henry Morgentaler, and more.

Owning, and having read, books by such luminaries as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, Rainy Day didn't find their contributions to be earth shakers. The one that made her sit up and take notice was the interview of Tai Solarin, one of Nigeria's leading educators and social critics. Rainy Day was very sorry to do a Google on Dr. Solarin only to discover that he, like Christopher Hitchens, has died. The interview of Dr. Solarin was the highlight of Rainy Day's read.

Free Inquiry is the magazine for Secular Humanism, and Rainy Day received her copy of Imagine There's No Heaven when she subscribed to the magazine. If you are curious as to what Secular Humanism is – and isn't – Rainy Day strongly urges you to start here: http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?page=what&section=main.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thousand Shrine Warrior - #3 of 3

Thousand Shrine Warrior: Third Novel in the Tomoe Gozen Saga –by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Historical Fantasy
275 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white ink drawings by Wendy Adrian Shultz
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day doesn't remember reading this third and last book in the series. She remembered the first two books, in fact she mentioned it was a bit like meeting up with her high school BFF and catching up on the gossip. But this story was entirely new to her. And a total page burner.

Rainy Day is both delighted she has finished this book – she can get back to her writing and household chores; and very saddened she has finished this book – she has said, "Goodbye" to her old friend, Tomoe Gozen.

The trilogy was called 'gloomy' by the author, and though it does have it's gloomy aspects, it truly was a good read. It is, after all, a Samurai tale. Lots of good sword fights, honorable vengeance fights, and the restoration of the Samurai's soul. A good read on the differences between Buddhists and followers of Shinto, at least in the fantasy land of Naipon.

Rainy Day highly recommends this trilogy to anyone who enjoys this sort of story. Well told, nicely executed, a heckuva fun romp. If you want an autographed copy of the trilogy, check out the last URL below. Rainy Day spent many years looking for the trilogy (Thousand Shrine Warrior had only one printing) and thought it well worth the cost to order from the author.

These URLs are also at the bottom of the review for Book #1

Jessica Amanda Salmonson books from her personal stash (these come autographed): http://www.violetbooks.com/CATALOGS/catalogfrontpage.html

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Golden Naginata is once again wielded

The Golden Naginata: Second Novel in the Tomoe Gozen Saga –by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Historical Fantasy
310 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white ink drawings by Wendy Adrian Shultz
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rereading this series is, for Rainy Day, like meeting up with her high school Best Friend Forever and spending hours catching up on gossip. Great fun and a total delight.

Rainy Day mentioned in my earlier review of Tomoe Gozen, book #1, that there really was a Tomoe Gozen. However, Rainy D wanst to be clear, this story, though based on a real person from history, takes place in an alternate world where Nippon (Japan) is called Naipon, and magic exists.

Rainy Day has begun book #3, The Thousand Shrine Warrior, and finds it as captivating as the first two. Ms. Salmonson calls them 'gloomy' on her web site. In ways, Rainy Day must agree with her. However, the story is captivating, and fun, and different, and Rainy Day can hardly wait to finish #3.

These URLs are also at the bottom of the review for Book #1

Jessica Amanda Salmonson books from her personal stash (these come autographed): http://www.violetbooks.com/CATALOGS/catalogfrontpage.html

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tomoe Gozen Rides Again - well on paper, anyhow

Tomoe Gozen: The First Novel in the Tomoe Gozen Saga –Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Historical Fantasy
257 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white ink drawings
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day first read Tomoe Gozen many years ago, and through the many moves she made since, lost her copy of both it, and the second book of the trilogy, The Golden Naginata. She doesn't think she's ever read the third and final book, The Thousand Shrine Warrior. Using Google, she found a site for Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and ordered all three books. She is extremely happy to have them, all of them, once again in her possession!

Tomoe Gozen was as captivating this read through as Rainy Day remembered from years ago. This time, through the marvels of the www, Rainy Day did a bit of research, and there really was a Tomoe Gozen. According to Wikipedia, Tomoe Gozen was a "rare female samurai worror, known for her bravery and strength. She is believed to have fought and survived the Genpei War (1180-1185).

How much of the 'real' history is in this set of books Rainy Day has no idea-she's too busy reading; however, she does know through long ago conversations with Ms. Salmonson, that Ms. Salmonson has an intimate knowledge of Japanese and or Asian history, and in order to write a book about a hero, or heroine if you prefer, of Tomoe Gozen's fame and stature, Rainy Day is pretty sure a lot of research happened before the first words were typed.

If history and fantasy appeal to you, if you like swashbuckling type stories of samurai of old, and if you can find copies of the books, or get them electronically, Rainy Day thinks you will enjoy them. Rainy Day certainly enjoyed re-reading Tomoe Gozen, and is already into the Golden Naginata. She can hardly wait for the Thousand Shrine Warrior!

Jessica Amanda Salmonson books from her personal stash (these come autographed): http://www.violetbooks.com/CATALOGS/catalogfrontpage.html

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Haiku: Inspirations, Poems and Meditations on Nature and Beauty – by Tom Lowenstein and Dr. Victoria James

Inspiration, History, Poetry
159 Pages
Footnote/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: Yes
Suitable for eReaders: No

Rainy Day is a poet, and enjoys writing haiku, and what she calls birdku (about the birds in her yard), and when she found this book, it simply had to become a permanent part of her library.

It is a small, square book (about 8 inches on a side), and every page is illustrated, many are double page illustrations, especially the ones with the haiku on them. Because of the illustrations and the 'side notes' on some pages, as well as the double paged art, Rainy Day thinks much of the beauty of the book would be lost in an eReader.

Mr. Lowenstein is an anthropologist, cultural historian, and poet. Dr. James is a journalist who has lived in Japan. Their book shows their love and respect for the Japanese people and culture.

This book not only traces the history and evolution of haiku, but also gives an easily accessible, concise history of Japan, her people and their culture. Especially some of the more known poets and artists.

The illustrations are both painting and photography, deliberately chosen to go with the words, and are stunning in the beauty and subtlety.

Rainy Day heartily recommends this book to anyone who has ever had even a wee teensy interest in Japan and her culture.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Beaten, Seared, and Sauced

Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America –by Jonathan Dixon

266 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: None
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day knew she would love this book after reading the first three words in the Acknowledgments. "Thank you to..." Rainy Day found a writer who understands. He did not think it necessary to want to thank them, he found it necessary to thank them.

Therefore, Jonathan Dixon, Rainy Day thanks you for a most engrossing book.

Have you ever considered, in your wildest dreams, of becoming a Chef? Oh, Rainy Day has. Every year or two she dreams it for oh, maybe 3, possibly 4, nanoseconds. And then she remembers – Chefing is darned hard work, and Rainy Day isn't as young as she used to be, and, besides, she likes cooking small, intimate meals for one, possibly two.

But, if you are one who has wondered, this book is a must read. If you are one who is sure positive you can win an Iron Chef America, or Throwdown with Bobby Flay, read this book before applying. Rainy Day thought 8 weeks of (WAC) Army Basic back in the 1960's was pure, unadulterated hell. She can't imagine what Mr. Dixon and his classmates voluntarily put themselves through – two years of it. I think a lot of the Chefs mentioned in this book, could easily put on a military uniform and transition to being a Drill Instructor!

Jonathan Dixon was a writer before he entered the CIA at age 38. He was able to put his writing skills to excellent use in this memoir about his two years learning how to be a Chef. His writing style is approachable and easily read. He took Rainy Day on a delightful trip through some of the most gorgeous country in the US, and into some of the best kitchens. He made Rainy Day laugh, and he made her cry. And he taught her a few things along the way.

Many thanks, Jonathan Dixon, for a most delightful book!

Hidden in Plain View

Hidden in Plain View: The Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad –by Jacqueline L Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D.

History, African American
220 pages (including glossary, etc.
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white, color, and line drawings
Suitable for eReaders: Possibly (graphics capability)

Rainy Day has read a bit, here and there, on the Underground Railroad, and how the urban (or perhaps suburban) legend of folks hanging quilts in certain ways guided the slaves on their journey. That has been pretty well debunked, and this book does not talk about that.

This book talks about the symbology of the quilt patterns, and how they instructed the slaves. Most slaves left in the spring, which was when quilts used all winter were aired. The authors talked about how the quilts were hung on fences to air, and the story they (may have) told. They were, according to the authors, used to tell the slaves when it was time to leave. However, did the house slaves have the authority to decide when to air the quilts? And in what order? Rainy Day also doesn't believe the slaves had access to enough scraps from the house to make their own quilts in such designs. Those quilts would have been kept in the house. Rainy Day suspicions the quilts the slaves made for themselves more closely resembled those of Gee's Bend of today. Click here for images of Gee's Bend quilts. For a bit of history on the Gee's Bend collective, go here.

Frankly, Rainy Day doesn't think the quilts played all that important a roll; however, she is not an historian. What she did find interesting in the book were the comparisons of the quilt squares with African patterns brought by the slaves. And the history of the spiritual, and how the slaves were denied their drums but figured out how to use their feet to stomp to their old drum beats. Not as effective, but better than nothing.

This book was not overly easy or accessible to read.  And unless one is either an avid quilter, or historian of the Underground Railroad, and or days of slavery, Rainy Day recommends you pass on it, and read other books.

The Waters Rising

The Waters Rising --by Sheri S. Tepper

498 pages
Footnotes/Endnotes: No
Illustrations: No
Suitable for eReaders: Yes

Rainy Day has long been a fan of Sheri S. Tepper, and while she enjoyed this book, she found it rather long in places. Ms. Tepper has both the imagination, and the ability to write it, that Rainy Day would die for. Of course, if she did, die for it, it wouldn't do her much good, would it?

The Waters Rising is a post-apocalyptic novel about global warming – and how people react to it. As villages, cities, forests, indeed civilizations, drown, a princess of the far north fights death with the help of a fearful girl child who becomes the savior of humankind aided by a motley crew of people and animals.

If you are a fan of Ms. Tepper, then I recommend this book; however, if you've never read her, there are, I think, better books out there with which to start.