Petra X

Sexo drogo y rock y rollo. Graffiti seen on a wall in the harbour of Oporto where the yacht I was on was tied up. I knew I was going to have fun then. Later, on the same cat I sailed the Atlantic and ended up, via the Amazon, on a small island where I had variously, an art shop,  a boutique, a bar and now a bookshop.  Books are no longer a viable business. What next?  Any ideas?

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine - Somaly Mam

Sad Update but first an admission. I'm a sucker, I'm easily taken in. I'm a bookseller but I still judge books (and people) by their covers. With this book, the cover was attractive and the story the author had to tell of sexual slavery from an early age to winning Glamour magazine's Woman of the Year award (2006) was uplifting and compelling and I really thought it was something special to recommend.

Now today, I read that the book was indeed a story. Fiction. How much of it was true and how much sheer invention in order to gain publicity, sympathy and to fulfil her grandiose personal ambition of fame. Certainly she was never a child sex slave, but went to high school and sat an exam to be a teacher. Every point she made of her life in the sex industry of Cambodia that people have examined has to out be false. You can read the details in a May 2014 issue of Newsweek or for a rather horrifying overview, Wikipedia. A thoroughly discredited heroine.

But still, there is a sex industry in Cambodia, her Foundation did raise it's profile and millions to aid the victims, so ultimately didn't the means justify the end? I'm not too sure on that, what kind of harm has she done Cambodia and those who tell their tales truthfully? This is just more grist to the mill of those profit from it, or who would rather ignore it, some of whom have very 'loud' voices in charities, organisations like the UN and the media?

I'm not going to change my review. Those were my thoughts on reading the book. I'm not going to downgrade the book from 5 stars, but the author, 1 star would be generous, unless I could give 5 stars worth of contempt.
______

When I started to read the book, noting the curiously flat tone and simple language, I thought I was in for another one of the books like Slave by Mende Nazer (a 5-star book) or even Halima Bashir's Tears of the Desert  (another 5-star read). I've read a lot of these books of Black men and women taken by the Arabs in Sudan as slaves or victims of a civil war and I'd reached the point where I only wanted to read another one if it was going to be radically different. This one is.

Somaly Mam didn't have a good start in life and it went rapidly downhill after that with her as a young girl being sold to a 'grandfather' as a slave, a man who would repay his debts at the local shop by selling her virginity in a violent rape. The downhill acceleration picked up from there.

But then she met a man, a typical European traveller who likes working abroad and mixing with the locals and doesn't much mind if he pays for sex or not. Becoming his mistress saved her life. Eventually she forms a powerful and very successful charity to save other girls, estimated to be 1 in 40 of all the girls in Cambodia, who have found themselves with nowhere lower than death to go, and even in that, Somaly Mam is there for them. The most interesting part of the book is about her life and how it changed with this man who brought her financial freedom and gave her intellectual respect man and enabled to go on to win many awards for her work.

I've seen sex slaves. My son and I were in Bangkok and went to the Patpong market, a night market. Down the centre of the broad street were stalls back-to-back selling t-shirts and jewelry and down the sides were shops and bars. The bars had their doors propped half open and inside, dancing on round tables were exquisite doll-like girls with dull, dead eyes, swinging slowly around their stripper poles as they waited for the customers to come inside.

I'm glad I've read the book, its fleshed out the statistics I've read on sex slavery in the Far East, and given life to those girls who looked like they had none or didn't care if they did or not. I wouldn't have chosen that market for my son to see at only fourteen, but then why not, he was the same age as those dead-eyed girls.


Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/139534534

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

Rewritten July 2014

 

This book is writing of the superlative kind. The book at first appears, right to the end, to be a rather mundane story of the life of an ordinary man who is neither perceptive about the people around him nor does he see himself in a clear light. Only at the end is it apparent that there were two different stories being written at the same time and you can perceive all the clues to the second story only in hindsight although they were so clear, you wonder how you could have missed them. You wonder how the protagonist could have misinterpreted, forgotten and ignored them as well. Or did he?

This is genius writing. This was two ways of reading a story, one written to be read in the usual way, forwards, and the other backwards, with hindsight. This is why Barnes won the Booker Prize.

Cheerleaders, shills and behaving well at dinner parties

Wars Between Book Reviewers and Authors: Can Motives Be Proper for Attack Reviews? - James M. Lowrance

Disclaimer: this blog is not a review of the book, it is just linked to it. If you want to know about it, read the author's blurb on Amazon, esp. the contents of Section 2. "How to avoid people who aren't nice with reviewing your books."

 

I don't know about anyone else, perhaps everyone else is happy with it, but I am not. Whenever I look at my Review stream one book after the next (always 4-5 stars) is a 'free copy in exchange for an honest review' or 'I won the copy on' or 'thanks to the author' etc etc. It just reads like a lot of really jolly-ho advertising copy (which is exactly what the authors want) for a load of books that I will never read. 

 

Part of the problem is that I don't read romance, fantasy, much YA etc and those are the main genres of these reviews. They might really all be 4 to 5 stars  Booker Prize candidates. But I do know that when I used to be guided by these reviews to buy books for the shop, sales never lived up to the promise and a lot of people would tell me that they were disappointed in the books. So now I don't ever buy books that have no reviews or ratings from people who bought/begged/borrowed (or stole!) copies and are beholden to no-one.

 

I understand that placement on Amazon is affected by the rating. Amazon is treating positive reviews exactly as advertising in order to make money. It lauds, praises and rewards reviewers who fall in line and write good copy/reviews with freebies, badges, titles, placement. Amazon isn't about literature, it's about profit. Your review to Amazon is just marketing material.

 

Authors want to make money, they need the exposure, they want recognition. All of this they are taught by so many SPA sites is facilitated by 'honest' 5 star reviews ('please don't rate the book if you cannot give it a positive review'). A thoughtful, critical review is better for the author in the long run, but runs the risk of the freebies drying up and the reviewer ending up on the STGRB list (I'm on it! YAY).

 

The Future of Ink is on how to get your book promoted. I don't think I need to make any comment.

 

I have a cafe. A couple of years ago I rented it out to a guy with a fantastic personality who had a lot of dinner parties. Everyone loved him and naturally praised the food. You don't go to a party and say, well that salmon was undercooked, and nothing was seasoned properly. You say, wow, that was wonderful, amazing. Thanks for inviting me. So the guy rented my cafe. His personality sparkled, his food was lacklustre. His friends came for the beer and friendship, lots of cheap beer, they were friends, but the lunchtime customers soon drifted off elsewhere. He's back to being a barman again, probably throwing great parties still and blaming me, his ex-staff, and everyone else for his failure in the restaurant business.

 

Some of the reviews are from book blog sites who depend on freebies in order to keep the blogs going. Sometimes just for the love of books, sometimes for vast inflated egos who think they will have a Serious Book Blog for Intellectual Readers.  Sometimes the blog makes money from advertising or from 'free reviews' but paid editing. Doesn't matter, all of them need freebies and all the authors want advertising. I wonder how often these reviewers put their money where their mouth is and actually pay for SPA 5-star books? 

 

Is there an answer? Yes. It's the one I implement on GR. Top friends and others. A way to keep friends with people who write all sorts of interesting blogs and comments and whatnot, but whose genres or reviews I have less interest in. 

 

I still like BL but I'm not on here hardly at all. Partly it is because I don't find many reviews of the books I like and so have sidled, not altogether without shame, back to GR, partly because of the unending 'honest reviews' and partly because of business and my son having been quite ill I haven't the time I used to.

 

I do go on sometimes, lucky there is a 'more' tag and you don't have to read it!

 

 

 

 

Letters to a Young Contrarian

Letters to a Young Contrarian - Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens was my 5-star author hero. Everything he wrote I had to ration how much I read at a time so I could savour his writing, his pronouncements, his humour and his wisdom. This book was but a pale shadow of his others and I couldn't finish it. I may one day pick it up again.

Although Hitchens is often the star of his own books, he is able to put himself to one side to concentrate on the subject. Unfortunately in this one he is not just the star, but the elevated hero, and great as a writer he might have been, as a person he was no less flawed than the rest of us. Perhaps more so, perhaps that is what made him so interesting.

BookLikes LeafMarks

Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives

Farewell to the East End: The Last Days of the East End Midwives - Jennifer Worth

This isn't like Jennifer Worth's first two books in the series, [b:The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times|6114607|The Midwife A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times|Jennifer Worth|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1399870709s/6114607.jpg|6292672] and [b:Shadows of the Workhouse|3925836|Shadows of the Workhouse|Jennifer Worth|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328216841s/3925836.jpg|3971355]. They were sweet memoirs of how hard it was in times gone by, but there were rays of sunshine, love and jollity to enliven the days. The books were fairly faithfully filmed as a sugar-candy feelgood somewhat addictive series.

This last book was filmed in very much the same manner but was not faithful to the book. It was quite a surprise to see that Worth had departed from her rose-tinted glasses stye of writing to author a hard-hitting, horrific picture of the dreadful time those early post-war years for the very poor in a very deprived area of London.

In this book we have a man, a sea captain who not only commits incest but prostitutes his daughter to dozens of men on a daily basis, bloody abortion, infanticide, bigamy, bullying and a nun with a major mental health issue.

If you liked the series be prepared for something different. If you don't like fluffy memoirs and so avoided the Midwife books, this one is worth reading as a well-written sociological memoir of the brutal lives of those who have so little they live on the fringes of society and no one much cares. Jennifer Worth did though, and thought their lives worth documenting.

BookLikes LeafMarks

The Plague

The Plague - Albert Camus,Stuart Gilbert

This was as much an existentialist tract as it was a book about the descent of a town into plague, the gradient of the decline increasing exponentially until they reach the pit. There it is death and smoke and groans and every bit the imagined hell of those with a religious consciousness.

But the plague has no relationship to religion. The innocent die as much as the guilty. Shady people are sly by night, criminals escape justice, the great and the good die in their beds, the plague is the great equalizer. This is an atheist world where nothing has rhyme or reason and blaming it on fate or an angry deity or questioning why the deities have ignored the supplicants increasing praises, appeals and desperate petitions is futile. Even they see it is pointless and in the end the comforting rituals of death and consignment of the remains have mostly been abandoned. The plague strikes almost all and those whom it leaves, aren't special in any way.

Pacing is not something I tend to notice in a novel, but I did in this one, it is outstanding. The pacing matches the descent in hell and the recovery into sunlight and a brisk sea air absolutely perfectly. At the end, after all the pain and darkness I felt relieved and refreshed, an unusual feeling for the end of a book.

5 stars, golden ones.

The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese

The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese - Michael Paterniti

The author was a writer of articles - and therein lies the clue to the really unfocused writing of the book. At times the book seem to be a series of stories, connected ostensibly by the central 'mystery' but what reads like a lot of waffle.

It isn't a bad book, but the premise, discovering the best cheese in the entire world, how it got that way and why it no longer is wasn't anything like as interesting as the blurb made out. Essentially, it was a new business to discover and then make commercially a cheese that had been in the family for a very long time, but that no had made for many years.

Because the cheese was so fantastic, eventually a lot of money is needed to develop the business, enter the financial people and cue the best friend to do a rip-off operation and the ensuing unwinnable law suits. Unwinnable because the man with the money and the signed documents, no matter how obtained, always wins.

That's all. Hard to make a book around that for a writer of articles rather than an experienced author, perhaps even one of fiction, who is used to the writing tricks that open up the plot slowly, a nuanced reveal.

Nonetheless, the story is charming to a degree. The characters are well-drawn, you can imagine if you met the cheese-maker you would know him immediately and that he might invite you into the Telling Room for a story, a drink and some of the last precious, crumbling remains of that fabulous cheese.

The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran AdriĆ 's elBulli

The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran AdriĆ 's elBulli - Lisa Abend

The key to appreciating molecular gastronomy, at least as practised by Ferran Adria, is to cease all idea that restaurant food is something you choose from a menu, comes in well-defined courses and is served by silent waiters who place and remove the dishes rather than explain each item and tell you how to eat it.

What you have to appreciate is Ferran Adria is an artist whose medium is food, not paint, clay or glass. Through this medium he will create very small portions, just one or two bites, of food that will entrance several of your senses at once. Maybe it is how it is presented, dry ice curling up from your dragon cocktail that is itself a sphere and not liquid. Maybe it is in the taste, the texture or even the sound. This is art at the cutting edge for which ElBulli won the best restaurant in the world award from Michelin an unprecedented five times.

If one looks at El Bulli as the artist's studio, one can see why so many chefs and would-be chefs come to do a stage at the restaurant, without pay, only accommodation and one meal a day provied. Otherwise for such a high-price restaurant, it's exploitation.

Adria Ferran doesn't have the usual problem of a high turnover of staff. The main chefs have mostly been with Ferran since they were young. In season they cook, out of season they work on the development of a completely new dishes. Dishes, not menu - there is no menu, you eat what Ferran decides you should, 35 courses for €350. The restaurant is closed now as Ferran concentrates full-time on development of his “techno-emotional cuisine” as he prefers to call his molecular gastronomy.

For those doing a stage the work was regimented, repetitive and rarely creative. But they had a taste of food as art and no matter whether they remained at the cutting edge of food or went back into traditional cooking, they learned that perfection in food rests in the absolute quality of the raw ingredients and in extreme attention to detail. And that if the food is good enough, people will pay whatever you ask, drive 20 miles on a dangerous mountain road after booking a year ahead. Now that's something to aim for.

The top image is a quote from Kanye West, the bottom image is the dedication of Joan River's new memoir, "Diary of a Mad Diva".

 

She wins so much right now.

 

The top image is a quote from Kanye West, the bottom image is the dedication of Joan River's new memoir, "Diary of a Mad Diva".

 

She wins so much right now.

 

<

My comment

 

Dr. Donde West, Kanye's mother, must be turning in her grave right now. She was a Fulbright Scholar, and winer of many other awards. She was also chairperson of the Chicago State University where she was an English Professor and her son is

"a proud non-reader of books".

 

 

Still, when North West goes to school, that quote is going to come back and bite him on the bottom. As an aside, I wonder if little Norrie is going to get teased for her name? And what her next sibling is going to be called?&nbsp

;

Reblogged from Jessica (HDB)

Calling Nerds, Techies and know-it-alls (computer-wise that is). No cats need apply.

I want to hide the chrome://extensions/ page on a computer. i don't want the clerk/customers being able to access it and turn off certain extensions. I have Windows 7 and the account is a standard account (a guest account is not suitable).  Does anyone know how please?

 

it took me two days to work out how to hide IE and make it non-functional, but this one defeats me completely.

 

Also how to get Chrome to run from boot? I'd like to be able to do that.

 

Thanks to all techies and nerds in advance! Cats - sorry but opposable thumbs are a major requirement and you don't have them!

On the nature of fans, trolls, extremists and the sort of friends that say baa-baa

Or as Jack Bruce put it,

 

“The paradox of anti-Semitism is that it is invariably up to the Jews to explain away the charges. The anti-Semite simply has to make them.” 

  •  

People always think that the person they are busy hating on is the root cause, even when it patently isn't.  And then friends (of the immature sort, 'my friend right or wrong')  join in (baa baa, we don't like x either, or baa baa here's something juicy or just baa baa we like to be on the winning side) and somehow or other it spreads (often in the media) and once it's been printed or posted half a dozen times a load of people think it's true. Even though the root cause is often some problem that the originator has who can't face the truth or is just a troll, just a trouble-maker who gets pleasure from nastiness. Cognitive dissonance.

 

Some women have relied on that with crying rape because they hate the guy. One case in the media right now, has a woman student lawyer whose ex married someone else. He spent months in prison because all her 'friends' came forward to support her. He was cleared and she is up for sentencing.  Some authors do it on booksites because creating drama is creating publicity because they are guaranteed they will get a reaction (which might well be genuine) AND all the baa-baas will all join in (and their little lambs) instead of letting the drama die. 

 

Some trolls do it because the anonymity gives them so much power they can write what shit they like and know they will get some support. 

 

The problem with all of these people, outside of those who must deal with legal authorities or risk losing their jobs, is that every now and again they come across someone who isn't intimidated by them or their friends. Then they have to get more extreme and nastier to try and get a reaction and if they don't? They store it away in their little tiny brains just waiting for an opportunity.  I dropped someone as a friend on GR a while back and guess what, after a year or more of festering in their brain, they went for it!  

 

Case of needing removal of gall bladder if you ask me. You didn't ask me? Oh well, here's another quote, from Ron White this time,

 

"I had the right to remain silent. But I didn't have the ability."

 

That's me!

 

pic and some tags reblogged from the often very en-pointe Derrolyn Anderson with thanks.

 

Source: http://derrolyn.booklikes.com/post/899036/so-true
Reblogged from Derrolyn Anderson

For Trolls and Racists who accuse me of going to defend Islamophobia and who say "Go Fuck Yourself". Do you wonder why you were blocked? LOL

Being accused of about to defend Christopher Hitchens' supposedly 'viciously racist' Islamophobic stance to just about everything, I blocked http://kaia.booklikes.com/ I don't need that. How does she know I was going to defend him? How does she know what I think? Was she just spoiling for a fight? 

 

This was on a book she didn't read. In fact she hasn't read any Hitchens at all. Doesn't feel the need to. Just found my review and spewed a load of unverified verbiage about the author.  

 

Some people really can't stand any criticism of their views, political or religious. But why on earth second-guess my review and decide I was going to defend Islamophobia? What in my review made her think that? That really is nasty. I don't think Hitchens was in any case, I think he despised all religions, Christianity and Judaism at least, equally.

 

I am always happy to debate subjects, I don't mind opposing views, I often learn something or find viewpoints I hadn't considered. But having someone tell me that I am going to defend Islamophobia in an author is a step too far. 

 

I blocked her because that is trollish behaviour and I don't wish to continue it.

I block people who call me a coward for not continuing vitriolic diatribes, also those who say I 'flounce' out of discussions. These are 'dare' words, like children in playgrounds use. I have no problem with these people doing as they please, but I don't feel the need to continue them. My blog, my choice. 

'

In my experience on GR (and yes, I am a troll magnet but I also have plenty of discussions with people whose viewpoint is diametically opposed to my own, but they don't get nasty), the trolls often come back and delete or amend their words. So I have a screen shot.

 

There are several people on BookLikes and GR (same people) who when one of them is in a battle with me about anything, come out in force to support their friends without caring about the issue. II expect they'll all like her post. Playground for true. 'll block them too.I have an open-door policy, but have no hesitation in slamming it shut either. 

Letters to a Young Contrarian - Christopher Hitchens

Letters to a Young Contrarian - Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens was my 5-star author hero. Everything he wrote I had to ration how much I read at a time so I could savour his writing, his pronouncements, his humour and his wisdom. This book was but a pale shadow of his others and I couldn't finish it. I may one day pick it up again.

Although Hitchens is often the star of his own books, he is able to put himself to one side to concentrate on the subject. Unfortunately in this one he is not just the star, but the elevated hero, and great as a writer he might have been, as a person he was no less flawed than the rest of us. Perhaps more so, perhaps that is what made him so interesting.

 

Goodreads Leafmarks

Farewell to the East End - Jennifer Worth

Call the Midwife: Farewell to the East End - Jennifer Worth

This isn't like Jennifer Worth's first two books in the series, The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times and Shadows of the Workhouse. They were sweet memoirs of how hard it was in times gone by, but there were rays of sunshine, love and jollity to enliven the days. The books were fairly faithfully filmed as a sugar-candy feel-good somewhat addictive series.

This last book was filmed in very much the same manner, but was not at all faithful to the book. It was quite a surprise to see that Worth had departed from her rose-tinted glasses stye of writing to author a hard-hitting, horrific picture of the dreadful time those early post-war years for the very poor in a very deprived area of London.

In this book we have a man, a sea captain who not only commits incest but prostitutes his daughter to dozens of men on a daily basis, bloody abortion, infanticide, bigamy, bullying and a nun with a major mental health issue.

If you liked the series be prepared for something different. If you don't like fluffy memoirs and so avoided the Midwife books, this one is worth reading as a well-written sociological memoir of the brutal lives of those who have so little they live on the fringes of society and no one much cares. Jennifer Worth did though, and thought their lives worth documenting.

Goodreads Leafmarks

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury - Alison Light

Virginia Woolf is my bete noir. Especially after reading Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury where the depths of her hypocrisy and height of her self-centredness are quite relevatory about one who had a genius for publicy for a public face and an equal one for her keeping the her true moral repugnancy hidden.

VW's attitude towards work was that it was for others. Indeed in one of her novels, she has a character say of a young woman of 25, "but she looks so old", the reply, "Well she does work and that ages one" (or similar). VW couldn't make a cup of tea for herself, indeed she and her sister have to call in someone to show them how to light the gas stove so that they can. The servant classes were a lower form of human life to her, a racist rather than snobbish way of thinking. She didn't feel they had finer feelings or the capacity for education beyong the basic. They, annoying but necessary creatures as they were, existed to make the lives of her, her 'liberal, avante-garde' Bloomsbury set, as free from the mundane aspects of living as possible.

If you admire the writing, that is one thing, if you admire the writer and don't want your respect collapsing downwards into VW's obvious feet of clay, well mud really. Then you don't want to read this book by an expert on Virginia Woolf and her works.

VW is a 1-star character, but the servants and the writing are deserving of a better rating, so three stars, but reluctantly given.

Read as a buddy read with my friend Sheila, her review">review is spot-on.

 

Goodreads Leafmarks

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury

Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury - Alison Light Virginia Woolf is my bete noir. Especially after reading [b:Mrs. Woolf and the Servants: An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury|3362825|Mrs. Woolf and the Servants An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury|Alison Light|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312050919s/3362825.jpg|4005357] where the depths of her hypocrisy and height of her self-centredness are quite relevatory about one who had a genius for publicty, for a public face and an equal one for her keeping the her true moral repugnancy hidden. Where does snobbery cross the line into racism? If they are all of the same race is it possible? Yes. If one regards the others almost as another race entirely, then it is. And that was VW.

VW's attitude towards work was that it was for others. Indeed in one of her novels, she has a character say of a young woman of 25, "but she looks so old", the reply, "Well she does work and that ages one" (or similar). VW couldn't make a cup of tea for herself, indeed she and her sister have to call in someone to show them how to light the gas stove so that they can. The servant classes were a lower form of human life to her, a racist rather than snobbish way of thinking. She didn't feel they had finer feelings or the capacity for education beyong the basic. They, annoying but necessary creatures as they were, existed to make the lives of her, her 'liberal, avante-garde' Bloomsbury set, as free from the mundane aspects of living as possible.

If you admire the writing, that is one thing, if you admire the writer and don't want your respect collapsing downwards into VW's obvious feet of clay, well mud really. Then you don't want to read this book by an expert on Virginia Woolf and her works.

VW is a 1-star character, but the servants and the writing are deserving of a better rating, so three stars, but relutantly given.

Read as a buddy read with my friend Sheila, her review is spot-on.

BookLikes LeafMarks