Monthly Archives: February 2015

Review: The Prank-The Best of Young Chekhov by Anton Chekhov

I received an advanced review copy of these stories from The New York Review of Books.

My Review:
The PrankThese short stories have been collected and published in one volume for the first time and this collection also features two stories that have never before been translated into English.  The book includes an index in which the original publication is mentioned for each story as well as any changes that Chekhov made to each narrative before final publication.

The collection is a humorous and sarcastic commentary on Russian life in the 19th century; Chekhov particularly likes to poke fun at relationships and marriage.  In “The Artist’s Wives,” various types of creative men are featured, including a painter, a novelist and a sculptor, all of whom have trouble controlling their pesky spouses.

Secret lovers, dark humor and narcissism all play a role in the marriages that Chekhov describes.  In “Before the Wedding,” a mother is giving her newly engaged daughter advice about marriage.  She has a long list of complaints about her own husband and tells her daughter, “Marriage is something only single girls like but there’s nothing good about it.”

My favorite story is the one entitled “A Confession” in which a man is writing a letter to his friend to explain why, after 39 years, he is still a bachelor.  He has a few interesting stories about various engagements to women that are foiled because of ridiculous reasons which include a biting gosling, bad writing and hiccups.

The New York Review of books Classics has given us another brilliant and funny collection of translated short stories.  If you are interested in trying to read Russian literature, THE PRANK is a great work with which to start.

About The Author:
ChekhovAnton Chekhov was born in the small seaport of Taganrog, southern Russia, the son of a grocer. Chekhov’s grandfather was a serf, who had bought his own freedom and that of his three sons in 1841. He also taught himself to read and write. Yevgenia Morozova, Chekhov’s mother, was the daughter of a cloth merchant.

“When I think back on my childhood,” Chekhov recalled, “it all seems quite gloomy to me.” His early years were shadowed by his father’s tyranny, religious fanaticism, and long nights in the store, which was open from five in the morning till midnight. He attended a school for Greek boys in Taganrog (1867-68) and Taganrog grammar school (1868-79). The family was forced to move to Moscow following his father’s bankruptcy. At the age of 16, Chekhov became independent and remained for some time alone in his native town, supporting himself through private tutoring.

In 1879 Chekhov entered the Moscow University Medical School. While in the school, he began to publish hundreds of comic short stories to support himself and his mother, sisters and brothers. His publisher at this period was Nicholas Leikin, owner of the St. Petersburg journal Oskolki (splinters). His subjects were silly social situations, marital problems, farcical encounters between husbands, wives, mistresses, and lovers, whims of young women, of whom Chekhov had not much knowledge – the author was was shy with women even after his marriage. His works appeared in St. Petersburg daily papers, Peterburskaia gazeta from 1885, and Novoe vremia from 1886.



Filed under Classics, Humor, New York Review of Books, Russian Literature, Short Stories

Review: Welcome To Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson

Today I welcome TLC Book Tours back to my blog with a very different kind of dark comedy.  I invite you to read my review, learn a little bit about the author, and visit the other stops on the book tour.

My Review:
Welcome to BraggsvilleDaron is from a very small town in rural Georgia called Braggsville.  When he graduates from high school he wants to get as far away from his isolated, small-minded town as soon as possible so he decides to attend Berkeley for college.  Berkeley is a very different world, especially as far as its liberal politics are concerned, than he is used to in Georgia.  He makes three close friends at Berkeley: Louis, an Asian from California, Candance, a farm girl from Iowa, and Charlie, an African-American from Chicago. Together they call their group the “four little Indians”.

I would classify Welcome to Braggsville as a dark comedy.  Daron and his friends, while protesting a Civil War reenactment in Braggsville, make a very stupid, and tragic mistake.  They are not mean or evil students, but just naïve and ignorant about the world. They are under the influence of the very liberal atmosphere at Berkeley and their own stupidity leads them to make decisions that have deadly consequences.  There is also a lot of racial humor and jokes in the book and will definitely make readers uncomfortable.

Daron also spends a lot of time contemplating his life in a small, southern town, his memories of being a nerd in middle and high school, and his attempts to fit in once he is at Berkeley.  Welcome to Braggsville is a social commentary on race as well as a coming-of-age story in which a young man tries to understand that learning right from wrong isn’t always easy.

The author uses a lot of slang and nicknames in the book.  Those who enjoy correct punctuation and grammar can forget about seeing those rules followed in this book.  There are commas in strange places, there are sentence fragments galore, and there are capital letters in places where they should not be.  As one who enjoys traditional grammar and punctuation, I found this style tedious after about 100 pages.

Overall, WELCOME TO BRAGGSVILLE is a thought-provoking read about race, politics and coming of age.  If you pick this book up and read it stop by and let me know what you think in the comments.

About The Author:
T Geronimo JohnsonBorn and raised in New Orleans, T. Geronimo Johnson received his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and his M.A. in language, literacy, and culture from UC Berkeley. He has taught writing and held fellowships—including a Stegner Fellowship and an Iowa Arts Fellowship—at Arizona State University, the University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Western Michigan University, and Stanford. His first novel, Hold It ‘Til It Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Johnson is currently a visiting professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Click on the TLC Tour Banner below to see all of the stops on the book tour:



Filed under Literary Fiction

Review: Make It Paleo ll by Bill Staley and Haley Mason with Caitlin Nagelson

I received a review copy of this beautiful cookbook from Victory Belt Publishing.

My Review:

Make It Paleo I have been following the Paleo/Primal lifestyle for quite a few years and one of the first websites that I found, and one that still continues to be my favorite for information and recipes, is Bill Staley and Haley Mason’s Primal Palate.  I am so excited to be reviewing their latest cookbook which is chock full of information on grain free cooking, delicious recipes and beautiful pictures.

When I received this cookbook I was in the mood to try something different with chicken.  Make It Paleo has a fantastic recipe for the perfect roasted chicken that is topped with a mouthwatering blend of
Roasted Chicken with Aromatic Herbs aromatic spices.  I made this as a Sunday dinner for my family and I thought I would have leftovers, but it was so good that we devoured it. I think that next time I will roast two chickens and use the leftovers to make the chicken salad recipe that is included in the book.

The next recipe I tried is the porcini crusted lamb chops.  We have recently discovered lamb and have been eating it atLamb with mushrooms least once a week. This recipe makes 10 lamb chops and once again the mushroom mixture is easy and simple to prepare.  The chops were absolutely delicious and even my 8 year old, extremely picky daughter, enjoyed the lamb.  I will be putting this on our regular rotation of weeknight dinners.

The final recipe I tried is the cauliflower crust vegetable pizza.  There are countless paleo recipes out there for making a grain free pizza crust using cauliflower and I have tried many of them.  But my crusts have always come out mushy and do not look or taste like they should.  I thought I would give Bill and Haley’s recipe a try since it had a few more ingredients that would hold the “dough” together.  In addition to the cauliflower, the recipe calls for a cup of Pizza with Cauliflower Crust arrowroot powder as well as a cup of parmesan cheese.  The pizza, I am delighted to say, was absolutely delicious.  My husband, who does not follow the paleo diet, also thought it was great.  I am so excited that Make It Paleo has saved pizza for this gluten/grain free cook!

If you are looking for a versatile cookbook with loads of fantastic recipes and gorgeous pictures then I highly recommend MAKE IT PALEO II.  Even if you do not follow the paleo lifestyle, there are many delightful recipes that everyone can enjoy.

For more information about Bill and Haley visit their website:

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Filed under Cookbook, Paleo

Review- Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey by Adam Henig

I received an advanced review copy of this book from the author.

My Review:
RootsThe title of this book is so apt, because an author really does go through an “Odyssey” of sorts after he or she publishes a book.  In Alex Haley’s case his journey included fame, scrutiny, exposure and alienation.  After Haley published his book Roots: The Saga of An American Family it was made into a miniseries.  With millions of viewers tuning in to watch this family saga, Haley was launched into a world of fame where he was in high demand for book signings and speaking engagements.  He makes an incredible amount of money from his book, the miniseries and his lectures.

I was shocked to learn that Haley was sued by a couple of different parties for plagiarism.  Henig provides details of these cases that plagued Haley for years.  With fame comes additional scrutiny and when a reporter begins looking into the authenticity of the accounts of Haley’s family as they are described in Roots, great discrepancies are found between what he wrote and events as they actually occurred.  It was surprising to see that a publisher would have put this book out there without having first checked on the accuracy of Haley’s stories.

What impressed me most about this book is the amount of research that Adam Henig put into this very compact work.  Henig pours through letters, newspaper articles, interviews and even legal documents to provide us with a complete picture of Alex Haley and his controversial book.  If you are looking for something to read in order to commemorate Black History month then I highly recommend this brief but eye-opening book.

About The Author:
Adam HenigBorn and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Adam Henig attended California State University, Chico, majoring in political science with an emphasis in cultural and international studies. After graduation, he pursued his interest in African American history and literature.

Although Alex Haley’s Roots: An Author’s Odyssey is his first publication, the condensed eBook has already received notable praise. Terry P. Wilson, UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus of Ethnic Studies, called the eBook a “must read,” while former Reader’s Digest editor and Alex Haley’s colleague, Edward T. Thompson, deemed it “a highly readable story.”

A book reviewer, Adam’s writings have appeared in the San Francisco Book Review, Tulsa Book Review, The Indie Writer Network Daily, and Blogcritics.

To learn more about Adam and read his book reviews visit his website:


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Filed under Nonfiction

Review: If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

I received an advanced review copy of this book from Hogarth through NetGalley.
My Review:
If I Fall, If I DieDiane is an agoraphobe and has not been outside the walls of her house in Thunder Bay, Canada for over 8 years and, therefore, neither has her eleven year old son, Will.  As the plot progresses, we learn that Diane has suffered many loses in her life and her eventual retreat into her own little world and her attempt to bubble wrap her son against danger is a result of her traumatic past experiences.

Will spends his days painting, exploring his house, and answering the door for deliverymen but he never ventures Outside.  Will’s world exists of Inside, with a capital “I” and everything else is considered Outside, with a capital “O.”  Outside is a scary and dangerous place and is full of things that can kill a small boy in an instant.

The best part of the book is the character of Will who is brave, clever and, despite his mother’s illness, a very happy boy.  At first I thought this would be an extremely tragic story because of the effects of Diane’s agoraphobia on Will.  But Will’s natural curiosity and sense of adventure are what draws him to the Outside.  He possesses an inner strength to deal with situations that many adults would shrink and hide from.  When he is made fun of at school for being different he perseveres; when one of his friend’s goes missing he insists on putting himself in danger to find him; and when his friend Angela is bedridden in a hospital because of a fatal lung disease he visits and comforts her.

Will’s best friend is an Indian boy named Jonah and Jonah introduces him to skateboarding.  I found this aspect of the book an apt metaphor for the struggles that Will faces and in turn teaches his mother to face.  Even though he is not good at skateboarding and he falls down often, he understands that the only way to conquer his board is to fall down.  His bruises will heal and he can get right back on his board and try again.

IF I FALL, IF I DIE is heart-warming, thought-provoking, cleverly-written and funny story. Michael Christie has written a fabulous first novel and I am eager to see what else he has in store for his readers.

About The Author:
Michael ChristieMichael Christie’s debut book of fiction, The Beggar’s Garden, was long listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Prize for Fiction, and won the Vancouver Book Award. Prior to earning an MFA from the University of British Columbia, he was a sponsored skateboarder and travelled throughout the world skateboarding and writing for skateboard magazines. Born in Thunder Bay, he now lives on Galiano Island with his wife and two sons. If I Fall, If I Die is his first novel.

Michael has just written a fantastic article for the “New York Times Opinionator” in which he discusses skateboarding, living with an agoraphobe mother, and becoming a parent for the first time himself.  Click here to read the full article.


Filed under Literary Fiction