Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I started The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne last Saturday afternoon and finished it on Tuesday night—nearly 600 pages! It was that good. Depressing yet comical, deeply drawn protagonist alongside barely sketched caricatures—I want Maude Avery to have her own afternoon talk show!—an endearing journey through 70 years of a gay Irish man’s life in the repressive Catholic republic of Ireland and elsewhere. Five stars.

Next up, Kindred by Octavia Butler: “Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South…Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.”

And, Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi, “winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize…Best known in this country as the lawyer working tirelessly on behalf of [a] Canadian photojournalist [who was] raped, tortured and murdered in Iran—Dr. Ebadi offers us a vivid picture of the struggles of one woman against the system. The book movingly chronicles her childhood in a loving, untraditional family, her upbringing before the Revolution in 1979 that toppled the Shah, her marriage and her religious faith, as well as her life as a mother and lawyer battling an oppressive regime in the courts while bringing up her girls at home.”

As of earlier today, these ebooks at Amazon were on sale at $2 to $5—up to an 80% discount—but act quickly if you want a bargain. These deals may only last a day or a week, you never know. If you’re in the browsing mood, check out last week’s ebook sales too—some of those books may still be on sale.

Fiction:

Reminder: some of these books may only be on sale a few days so act quickly if you’re interested.

History of Rain by Niall Williams ($1.99, 80% off)

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize: “A rambling, soft-hearted Irish family saga stuffed with eccentricity, literature, anecdotes, mythology, humor and heartbreak.” (Kirkus Review)

Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt ($1.99, 80% off)

I’ve always heard of Hildegard von Bingen—Benedictine abbess, healer, composer and saint—but never knew anything about her, so a historical fiction is a good place to start.

“A fictionalized biography of medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen…Sharratt brings the elusive Hildegard to vivid life, underscoring her ability to evade or transcend Church censure while espousing a protofeminist agenda.” (Kirkus Review)

Oreo by Fran Ross ($1.99, 78% off)

“It’s interesting to imagine an alternative history of African-American fiction in which this wild, satirical and pathbreaking feminist picaresque caught the ride it deserved in the culture. Today it would be where it belongs, up among the 20th century’s lemony comic classics…simply flat-out fearless and funny and sexy and sublime…Oreo has snap and whimsy to burn. It’s a nonstop outbound flight to a certain kind of readerly bliss. It may have been first published more than 40 years ago, but its time is now.” (New York Times)

Senselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya ($2.99, 70% off)

Moya has been described as El Salvador’s foremost novelist who charts the lives of those thrown into what another writer called Latin America’s “Secret Vietnam.”

“A boozing, sex-obsessed writer finds himself employed by the Catholic Church (an institution he loathes) to proofread a 1,100 page report on the army’s massacre and torture of thousands of indigenous villagers a decade earlier, including the testimonies of the survivors…Mesmerized by the strange Vallejo-like poetry of the Indians’ phrases…the increasingly agitated and frightened writer is endangered twice over: by the spell the strangely beautiful heart-rending voices exert over his tenuous sanity, and by real danger—after all, the murderers are the very generals who still run this unnamed Latin American country.” (Amazon)

Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement ($1.99)

PEN/Faulkner Prize finalist. “Described as a novel, but that’s much too simple a description for what Clement is doing with the genre. In this startling tale of a young girl abducted into the Mexican drug trade, the social history–the reality of the world from which the fiction comes–burns away anything on the pages that could feel made up… This terrifying narrative…exposes the inexorable repetition of lives brutalised by the sovereignty and corruption of the drug cartels. The writing is electrifying not only because of its subject matter–anyone could report the facts–or because Clement is so strong on the insider viewpoint that gives new journalism its kick, but because she is a consummate stylist who makes sure nothing is wasted.” (The Guardian)

The Visitors by Sally Beauman ($1.99)

“The past has all the great stories. One of these is Howard Carter and his search for the tomb of King Tutankhamun, which Beauman has tackled in her new book, The Visitors. Set in Egypt in the 1920s and London in the present day, this hugely readable novel tells the story of Carter’s long years of toil in the Valley of the Kings through the eyes of a 10-year-old English girl recovering from a bout of typhoid to which she has lost her mother.” (The Guardian)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson ($2.99, 76% off, Penguin Classics edition)

“Jackson, who died 50 years ago, is perhaps best known for her short story The Lottery and her novel The Haunting of Hill House, twice-filmed and considered to be the last word in haunted-house tales. But while these and the rest of Jackson’s oeuvre are indeed sublime, it is Castle about which I am most evangelical and that I press upon people at every opportunity.” (The Guardian)

“The book I wish I’d written…So eerie, so disturbing, and not a wasted word, it has the kind of economy I wish I knew how to achieve in fiction.” (The Guardian)

The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead ($2.99)

“Although its prose ranges from good to fabulously good—is lyrical in the true sense, every observation and description bursting with feeling, meaning, subjectivity—and although its plotting is unobtrusively masterly, the book operates at a pitch of psychological violence that makes Revolutionary Road look like Everybody Loves Raymond. And, worse yet, can never stop laughing at that violence!…Especially confounding is that The Man Who Loved Children has failed to become a core text in every women’s studies program in the country.” (New York Times)

ebook deals book reviews

Food & Cooking:

Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with one of these Irish cookbooks…

The Irish Pub Cookbook by Margaret M. Johnson and Leigh Beisch ($3.99, 60% off)

“Contemporary Irish cooking means not just a rustic, stick-to-your-ribs Irish Stew with Brown Soda Bread, but also Green Tomato Tarte Tatin, as original and sophisticated as one found anywhere in Europe. The book reads like a tourist itinerary for hungry pub crawlers…and shares history on favorite pubs and their famous and infamous patrons and proprietors.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews and Darina Allen ($4.99, 79% off)

If Failte Ireland want to use just one thing to promote Ireland overseas, The Country Cooking of Ireland is the book that they need to thrust into the hands of potential tourists. Writer Colman Andrews has [an] impeccable pedigree…he ate his way through the high- and byways of this country to put this book together…his eye always cocked for an artisan producer, local specialty, or place featuring good food. The usual chapters on soups, fish, poultry, meats and baking are supplemented by sections on savoury pies, salmon…, potatoes…and a soda bread-focused bread chapter. There are little essays scattered throughout the book on a historical and factual topics…He quotes widely from Irish cookbooks, over 100 of which are mentioned in the extensive bibliography, and recipes from all eras are included.” (BiblioCook)

A Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden by April Bloomfield ($1.99, 87% off)

Bloomfield is a Michelin-starred chef in New York. “A vegetable-centric (but not vegetarian) collection of recipes inspired by Bloomfield’s childhood, chefs she’s worked for, and her restaurants…high-level, restaurant-quality recipes… There just aren’t that many entrees. Soups and sides, sure, and but main events? Not so much… [Many] require higher level techniques… [although] there are some simple recipes in Greens.” (Epicurious)

The Armchair James Beard by James Beard ($2.99, 70% off)

“Showcases the many roles of America’s first celebrity chef: teacher, culinary alchemist, restaurant reviewer, occasional dieter, visionary, and gourmand…each essay resonates with impassioned opinions and a distinctly American voice. Beard takes us on a journey from his childhood in Portland, Oregon, to his dining and cooking experiences around the world. These reminiscences, paired with more than 130 recipes, provide an intimate portrait of a lifetime spent studying, preparing, and enjoying food…Heartfelt, enlightening, and often humorous, these memoir-like selections are an inspiring addition to any culinary collection.” (Amazon)

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney ($2.99)

Named one of the Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Year by Time. “In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses 24 hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography of an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.” <Goodreads>

Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir by Padma Lakshmi ($1.99)

“Lakshmi opens a window into her life, weaving together stories from her childhood, her love affairs and her work through the lens of the culinary experiences that eventually shaped her fame. The book appears to spare little, delving deeply into personal details about uncertainty over paternity during her pregnancy, the pain of a custody case and her efforts to overcome the insecurity she felt being Indian… Ms. Lakshmi particularly highlights her high-profile relationship with the author Salman Rushdie, which was overshadowed by a fatwa, or religious edict, that had been issued in 1989 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s former supreme leader…Her memories in the book are interspersed with recipes.” (New York Times)

Bonjour Kale: A Memoir of Paris, Love, and Recipes by Kristen Beddard ($2.99, 62% off)

“The story of how one expat woman left her beloved behind when she moved to France-her beloved kale, that is. Unable to find le chou kale anywhere upon moving to the City of Light with her new husband, and despite not really speaking French, Kristen Beddard launched a crusade to single-handedly bring kale to the country of croissants and cheese. Infused with Kristen’s recipes and some from French chefs, big and small…, Bonjour Kale is a humorous, heartfelt memoir of how Kristen, kale, and France collide.” (Amazon)

ebook deals book reviews

Nonfiction:

These books were on sale as of Saturday morning, but may not be on sale for long—act quickly.

A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney ($2.99, 80% off)

“A Secret Sisterhood is curious about the creative impetus each novelist got from a woman writer beyond her immediate family. Obstacles to intimacy for every pair proved constant—sporadic letters, foiled rendezvous, painful illnesses, misunderstandings. So did an urgent feeling of connection, as this medley of vivid narratives reveals.” (The Atlantic)

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister ($2.99, 76% off)

“The history and current landscape of expanding options for single women in America—a narrative that is ultimately about liberation, a manifest and revolutionary freedom…It’s the personal narratives drawn from more than 100 interviews she conducted with all manner of women that make the book not just an informative read but also an entirely engaging one…the exemplary framework of cultural inclusion, the personal candor and palpable desire to lift up each and every one of us, is what makes All the Single Ladies a singularly triumphant work of women presented in beautiful formation.” (LA Times)

Ahead of Time: My Early Years as a Foreign Correspondent by Ruth Gerber ($2.99, 62% off)

“Gruber…born in 1911, is not a household name despite her having written 13 books and serving as a foreign correspondent during the 1930s in countless dangerous locales. This memoir is beautifully crafted…this volume recalling her first 25 years is one of the most evocative journalistic autobiographies to appear.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnavon ($1.99)

“Fans of Downton Abbey will want to get the real story behind Highclere Castle, the filming location for the hit TV show. Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the Eighth Countess of Carnarvon, uses diaries, letters, and photographs to write about the history of her home and its inhabitants—upstairs and downstairs… and according to the New York Times, gives you ‘the juicy backstory’ behind the award-winning show.” <LitFlash>

Creative Commons licensed photos by Aaron Burden (boy reading) and Kimberly Farmer (books) on Unsplash.

Amazon book links are affiliate links which allow me to earn a small commission on any sales that result from clicking. Thank you!

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