Sep 12, 2009

Book Review: Trail of Crumbs, a Memoir by Kim Sunee

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home by Kim Sunée
Genre: memoir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trail of Crumbs is the memoir of a young woman haunted by memories of being lost or abandoned by her mother at age three in a Korean markeplace. Persistent nightmares and her longing for "Omma" to come back to claim her in that marketplace suggest an unfulfilling childhood in the U.S. with her adoptive family. Her adoptive mother she describes as distant and disapproving. Her happy memories in the U.S. are of her adoptive grandfather, who taught her about New Orleans food and cooking.

The book is partly about travel - Provence and Paris, France - and partly a memoir of the author's love affair with Europe, European food, and European men - very different from the "narrow" and circumscribed life in New Orleans. Kim Sunee escapes to college in France and stays to live in Europe for many years with her French lover Olivier and his young daughter. When she doesn't find fulfillment in this either, Sunee finally tries psychotherapy in France, where a psychiatrist tells her the problem - she is divided.

A quick trip to Asia, suggested by Olivier, doesn't do anything to heal this divide. Korea is unsatisfactory, and she becomes sick on a trip to China. She finally accepts herself and her life while spending time in French Guiana - a simpler place than any she has ever lived in.

Those interested in memoirs, adoption and adopted children, French food and recipes, and Provence, will enjoy the book - the personal journey of a Korean American woman and food writer seeking to find out where she belongs.
Kim Sunee is "founding food editor for Cottage Living and the host of 'Local Flavor with Kim Sunee' for" Her website is

Thanks to the Hachette Book Group for the review copy of this book.

Sep 10, 2009

Book Review: The Fruit of Her Hands by Michelle Cameron

The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle Cameron
Genre: historical fiction

I was amazed and impressed by the way in which the author took her research of her 13th century ancestor, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, and wrote an historical novel based on his life. Although she knew little about his wife, the author recreated her, Shira of Ashkenaz, as the main character in her novel.

The book details the childhood of Shira and her interest in biblical studies, created a love connection to the apostate Nicholas Donin, and gave him an additional motive for his hatred of the Jewish religion - his unsuccessful bid for Shira's hand in marriage. The book develops the character Shira as the perfect woman and mother, a "pearl" of a wife to Meir ben Baruch.

From the Author's Note:
" I don't remember the first time my mother told me I was descended from a famous rabbi who lived in Europe in the 1200s....I stumbled upon a reference to Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenbert, the Maharam....

I had never known that in 1242 an apostate Jew named Nicholas Donin, having been excommunicated by the chief rabbi of Paris, convinced the Pope and French royals to burn every copy of the Talmud in a Paris market square. My ancestor, Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, was among the witnesses.... I learned how, years later, Meir ben Baruch settled in Rothenberg, founded a Jewish seminary, and became known throughout Europe for the wisom of his responsa, letters written in response to Talmudic questions."

Those interested in the history of religion in 13th century France, Germany, and England, and in the conflict between the Jews and Christians on an official basis and in the daily life of the time, will be fascinated by the research as well as by the fictional story of Shira as wife and mother.

My thanks to the author/publisher for an advance copy of The Fruit of Her Hands and the opportunity to review it. You can visit the author's website for more information on the book and book tour at Michelle Cameron

Chinese Literature: Reading Challenge

Music listened to for the challenge:

Chinese Classical Music video online

2. Erhu - Spring Scenery South of the Yangtze River video

Book reviews completed for the challenge:

1. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

2.Waiting by Ha Jin

3. A Map of Paradise: A Novel of Nineteenth Century Hawaii by Linda Ching Sledge, Chinese migration and settlement in Hawaii.

4. I Ching: A New Interpretation for Modern Times by Sam Reifler

5.Pearl of China: A Novel by Anchee Min, March 2010.

The China Challenge is hosted by Jen at Biblio File. I was persuaded by the excellent review of The Uninvited by Geling Yan, posted by Mel U of The Reading Life.

There are several levels of the challenge, from a pledge of just one book to planning a trip to China and learning some Mandarin! I chose Hiking the Great Wall:

Read 10 books about China
1 should be a work of translated fiction
1 should be nonfiction.
Here you can read 1 book (but only 1) about Chinese immigration. So, stories of Chinese people abroad, or nonfiction about overseas Chinese communities.

Anyone can join and you have until Sept. 2010 to complete the challenge.

Bookmark and Share

Sep 9, 2009

New Book: Deconstructing Sammy by Matt Birkbeck

Received from the author for review, a Harper Collins paperback edition just available Sept. 1, on the life of legendary singer, Sammy Davis Jr.

Description from the publisher:

Award-winning investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck delivers a stunning work of reportage that is equal parts cultural history, celebrity biography, and ultimately, a shocking behind-the-scenes look at the world of Sammy Davis, Jr.

Description from Goodreads:
Adored by millions, Sammy Davis Jr. was considered an entertainment icon and a national treasure. But despite lifetime earnings that topped $50 million, Sammy died in 1990 near bankruptcy....

Deconstructing Sammy is the extraordinary story of an international celebrity whose outsize talent couldn't save him from himself.

Harper Paperbacks
304 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06145-067-9

Watch for my later review!

Sep 8, 2009

Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers

"I'm tired of giving details," grumbled Harriet, perversely.

"You'll be tireder before the police and the newspaper lads have finished with you...." (ch. IV)

Picked up this Dorothy Sayers mystery over the weekend and got involved with Harriet Vane, detective writer, and her admirer Lord Peter Wimsey, both main characters in the famous detective series by Sayers.

In Have His Carcase, Harriet wanders about the seacoast of England trying to sharpen her detecting skills by noticing all the details there are. By lucky or unlucky chance, she comes upon a corpse on a remote section of beach.

It looks like suicide but Lord Wimsey decides otherwise. They both do their sleuting and come up with some interesting answers. Good book with a good start, but my interest started flagging half way through. Since this is by Dorothy L. Sayers, I know it'll pick up again!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading. Choose two sentences from your current read, and add the author and title for readers. Anyone can join in.

Sep 2, 2009

New ARCs

The Hidden Man by David Ellis, a thriller

Hardball: A V.I. Warshawski Novel by Sara Paretsky, a mystery

Thanks to Putnam for the chance to read these ARCs of brand new mystery novels set in the Midwest!

Book Review: Lift, a Memoir by Rebecca K. O'Connor

Lift, A Memoir does an excellent job of combining a description of the art of falconry with the memories of a woman becoming a confident falconer in spite of growing up with uncertainty in her personal life. Left by her parents at a young age, she learns about birds and the natural world from her grandfather, and develops a love of birds including hawks and falcons. She becomes a bird trainer, naturalist, and owner of a peregrine falcon. This is her story.

In Lift Rebecca trains her young peregrine falcon, Anakin, to become a skilled hunter. The memoir follows this training, when Rebecca must earn the falcon's trust and she in turn must develop trust he will return after every flight.

There is a story about being connected to the earth that I particularly enjoyed. Rebecca had been unsuccessful with a goshawk, which she had been trying to hunt with in unfamiliar Australian bush. She was in Australia at the time, helping with a bird show and rehabilitating Australian raptors. Murrundindi, an Australian Aborigine, performed a mysterious "grounding ritual" to help her with the hunting.

"I want her (the goshawk) to depend on me to flush her quarry, to believe that I will let her chase it, and to trust me to assist her once she catches it, but I'm failing."
(This quote is from an advance uncorrected proof and may differ from the final publication).

Murrundindi tells her to hunt barefooted, with the dirt between her toes and dirt streaked and smeared, warrior-style, on her face. She soon begins to "hear the land" and sense animals such as wild rabbits, and has successful hunts with the goshawk afterwards.

Flashbacks to her childhood throughout the memoir also tell the story of the Rebecca's childhood, her grandparents, and a renewed relationship with her mother and her mother's new family. It also tells the story of her love for Adam, another falconer. The second part of the book, when Anakin is trained, is thrilling. Stories of the author's finding ponds for her falcon to hunt a variety of waterfowl and duck, and of the people who helped, and the descriptions of the falcon diving to its prey are unforgettable.

Rebecca's story of her love of predators, beginning with her fascination with a praying mantis when she was only a child and ending with her acquiring and training the peregrine falcon Anakin, meshes very well with the equally fascinating story of her own personal life. I recommend this book highly to anyone interested in memoirs and interested in the natural world. I found the stories very moving and the description of the birds in their natural habitat, hunting naturally, very beautiful as well as informative.

Author I want to thank the author Rebecca K. O'Connor for the chance to be an advance reader of Lift, A Memoir. She has written several reference works on the natural world and a novel, Falcon's Return.

Red Hen Press, California
Tentative publication date: Nov. 1, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59709-460-3

Why I Never Finished My Dissertation by Laura Foley: Poetry Book Tour

  Laura Foley, author of WHY I NEVER FINISHED MY DISSERTATION, on tour April 2021  By  TLC Booktours   Why I Never Finished My Dissertation ...