Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

April 2014 books

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and LongingMastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya Von Bremzen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A memoir written through the lens of food nostalgia, AND it takes place in Russia? Yes, please! Ms. Von Bremzen understands the power of food and memories and I enjoyed every chapter (one per decade since the Revolution) of this book. It was especially interesting to read her scathing criticism of Putin's Moscow, since that's where my husband and I lived in 2002 (the author herself didn't visit it until 2011, and maybe things were a little different by then).

I enjoyed this book on much the same level as Moscow Stories - it was a great peek inside the Black Box of the USSR. Through its food, of course.

DangerousDangerous by Shannon Hale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The more you understand that this book is not about "one-handed girl goes to astronaut camp," the more you will like it. The synopsis I had read incorrectly (or incompletely) characterized it as such ("one-handed girl goes to astronaut camp") and as a result, I thought this book was a hot mess until I realized what the actual plot was, and said actual plot got going. Seriously, I kept thinking, "Shannon Hale, you are better than this!"

Good news: she is! This is a super adventurous, suspenseful book with a lovely main character and cleverly drawn secondary characters. Due to the misunderstanding I mentioned earlier, I think I would like this book even more on a second reading. Sci-fi is new territory for Hale, and I'm already looking forward to more!

One quibble: SPOILER [the scene in the Lair with Wilder where they discuss the fact that he has, uh, protection ready and waiting seemed out of place in the overall tone and content of the book. Everything was a really fun romp, with realistic confusing emotions and subtle life lessons, even, but that scene read a little heavy-handed. And it made Wilder out to be more of a jerk than I think he is, which is especially interesting when you consider that most of his other jerky deeds are excused after the fact when we find out the context, but this one happened for real and I felt like Maisie never dealt with it.

Also: Dragon. WHY?!?!?!? Sniff.] END SPOILER

Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman BelievesWomen and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes by Sheri L. Dew

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew from the start this wouldn't be a hard-hitting treatise on the subject of female ordination (the publisher is Deseret Book), but I've been an admirer of Sheri Dew since my university days and I knew I would appreciate her take on the topic.

And I did. She doesn't get to the really good stuff until the final two chapters, though. The beginning was interesting but not deeply relevant. I mostly found this book worthwhile as a framing device and resource for my own study of the topic.

A few main points:

Mormon women, in their unordained state, participate in our church in ways that require ordination in other churches.

We don’t really know why women don’t have the priesthood.

Women perform priesthood ordinances in the temple.

Be careful to separate the Priesthood from the imperfect men who hold it. She doesn't like the conflation of the power of the Priesthood and the people who hold it - rote sayings like "we'd like to thank the Priesthood for passing the Sacrament," etc.

Twelve Years a SlaveTwelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew the movie would be too much for me, so I read the book instead. I can't believe I hadn't heard of this book before - why weren't we required to read it in high school? I suppose it's just as well, since that could have made us not like the book on principle. A heart-wrenching story, well told.

Sharjah Heritage Days

Indian Fusion Elsa