Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, September 17, 2022

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - 2019 - 480 Pages- Hugo Award for Best Novel 2020

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine - 2019 - 480 Pages- Hugo Award for Best Novel 2020

Website of Arkady Martine

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine completely fascinated me.  Martine has created an amazing world, a gripping space opera, full of lush images.  Martine even includes a glossery.

The central figure is an ambassador, from an independent Space station of maybe 30,000 people, to  the huge sprawling Teixcalaanli Empire. 

The Teixcalaanli empire governs most of human space, and is about to absorb Lsel, an independent mining Lsel. Ambassador  Mahit Dzmare was sent to the imperial capital to prevent this, and quickly finds herself embroiled in the empire's complex intrigues.

Mahit has been implanted with an imago of the previous ambassador,a man who died under mysterious circumstances. (From the glossery- “imago—An ancestral live memory.”  Mahit finds it challenging blending her identity with a man.  She was selected for her position after extensive schooling in Teixcalaanli history, language, and literary culture going backs 1000s of years.  Almost every chapter begjns with a quote from a famous Teixcalaanli poem, work of history or official Manual. I loved these marvelously creative items which helped make the vast Teixcalaanli Empire come to  reality for me. (“Expansion History, The—A history of Teixcalaanli expansion, attributed to Thirteen River, attribution debunked; current literary scholars of Teixcalaan refer to The Expansion History as being composed by “Pseudo-Thirteen River,” an unknown person”.)

“Five Needle—Teixcalaanli historical figure, memorialized in the poem “Encomia for the Fallen of the Flagship Twelve Expanding Lotus.” Died defending her ship after a series of field promotions left her the ranking officer. Five Orchid—A fictional Teixcalaanli historical figure, the protagonist of a children’s novel, in which she was the crchesib of the future Emperor Twelve Solar-Flare.”

All the Citizens of the Empire (non-Citizens are called “Barbarians”) are linked together by device called a Cloudhook (from The glossery “cloudhook—Portable device, worn over the eye, which allows Teixcalaanlitzlim to access electronic media, news, communications, etc.; also functions as a security device, or key, which can open doors or give accesses; also functions as a geospatial positioning system, communicating location to a satellite network.”  

Most imperial Citizens are humanoids, either male or female. The role of sexual identity and politics is an important and complex theme in Memory Called Empire.  Mahit has assigned to her an imperial civil servant whose job is to advance her understanding while keeping Mahit from finding out why her predecessor may have been murdered. The two women quickly bond.  They both enjoy, and I could use one also an, “ahachotiya—An alcoholic drink, popular in the City, derived from fermented fruit.”.  There are lots of food references.  (Lost Garden—A restaurant in Plaza North Four, famous for its winter-climate dishes.)

Martine acknowledged that she was inspired by Aztec culture (amalitzli—A Teixcalaanli sport, played on a clay court with a rubber ball which opposing teams attempt to throw, bounce, or ricochet into a small goal. Versions of amalitzli specialized for low- or zero-gravity environments are also popular”)as well as Byzantium and Roman history.

I highly reccomend this amazing book. The plot quickly intrigued me.

Her second novel A Desolation Called Peace, which won The 2021 Hugo Award for best novel takes place also in The Teixcalaanlian Empire now Under attack. I hope to read it next  Month.

“Arkady Martine is the author of the teixcalaan series, a multitude of short stories, and various other science fiction, fantasy, & horror. she is also dr. annalinden weller, who is a byzantinist, a climate & energy policy analyst, and a city planner. she is not bored, but she is often tired.” From The author’s website.

Mel Ulm


Monday, September 12, 2022

Station Eleven - A Novel - by Emily Saint John Mandel - 2014 - 336 Pages


Station Eleven- A Novel by Emily Saint John Mandel- 2014 - 336 pages 

Written before the current Covid 19 world wide pandemic began, Station 11 is an account of what happen when the Georgia Flu (it originally came from Georgia in Eastern Europe) ends up killing 99 percent of the population of the Earth in a just a few months.

For those seeking a plot summary, Wikipedia has a decent one, so I will just post a few observations on Station Eleven.

As I read this book I did at times feel maybe a book about a horrible World Wide Pandemic was not the best choice for me but as I read on I did find the descriptions of the impact of the Georgia Flu, dating from what became known as “Day O” interesting.  The primary story line takes place in Year 20 in The Great Lakes region of what was once the USA and Canada, all national Borders are gone.  Older people remember the internet, TV, air conditioning, cars that still run, and much more.  Younger people have no real pre-Year O memories.  There is a second story line, tied in with the primary, set in the old days, centering on a movie Star and his romances.

We follow a traveling symphony company that also puts on Shakespeare as they tranverse through very dangerous roads.  Everyone is armed, they savange what they can from abandoned houses and stores.  They hunt deer and rabbits.

I enjoyed Station Eleven.  It was sort of fun to read the descriptions of the World  after Year 0, though i found the secondary plot less interesting.

“Short bio:

Emily St. John Mandel is the author of six novels, including Sea of Tranquility, The Glass Hotel, and Station Eleven. She lives in New York City”. From

Sunday, September 11, 2022

A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Copyright © 1980, 1995, 1998, 1990, 2003 by Howard Zinn. Introduction copyright © 2015 by Anthony Arnove. - 764 Pages


A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Copyright © 1980, 1995, 1998, 1990, 2003 by Howard Zinn. Introduction copyright © 2015 by Anthony Arnove. - 764 Pages 

American history is traditionally taught as a story of heroic self-sacrificing leadership by great men, including no women or non-whites.  Zinn sees things very differently.  He very convincingly develops a very different account of an America in which the majority are emotionally manipulated to support policies that benefit elite wealthy rulers across political parties and no one else.

Zinn sees the American Revolution as only benefiting very wealthy slave owning land owners.  Ordinary soldiers fought because they needed food, because they were duped into believing it was a heroic cause.  Slaves were promised freedom by both sides for serving for them.  These were all lies.  Native Americans  mostly sided with the British, knowing white residents wanted them gone, either shipped out west or exterminated.  This is exactly the policy of all American presidents, treaties were made to get Native Land then broken when no longer convenient to wealthy landowners.

Zinn devotes much space to the developing of the railroads.  Railroad barons were given grants of millions of acres by political figures responding to bribes.  Congressmen got free passes.  Railroads made slave labor more valuable as cotton, tobacco and other goods could be shipped to markets.  Most ordinary Americans owned no land and no slaves.  Increasingly small land owners lost their property when they could not pay the mortgage to banks.  Developers bought their land and the former farmers became either share croppers or laborers paid hardly living wages.

The participants in the American civil war on both sides fell for the drum beats of patriotism.  The wealthy could buy their way out of military service.  Southern soldiers come across as complete dupes, owning no slaves  or land but seeing it as their duty to die for those who did while wealthy slave owners set the war out.  Zinn details how after the south lost, laws were passed to keep ex-slaves in subjugation.  Poor whites were made to think they were superior to African Americans and did not understand that the elite cared nothing for them.  Fraternizing between the races was not allowed.  Many ex-slaves were lynched  for just looking at white women.

As Americans factories and farms began to produce more than Americans could themselves consume American politicians became to seek to create an American Empire through wars with Spain and Mexico.  I live in the Philippines and was very glad Zinn went into the wars between Filipinos seeking freedom and the Americans, 1899 to 1903. Zinn estimates at least half a million Filipinos died as a direct result of the war.  African American soldiers often saw more of kinship with the Filipinos than white Americans.  The average American got nothing of benefit from the war, only the very wealthy who wanted it as a trading base with China.

World War One, as Zinn explains, was a terrible waste of Millions of lives.  No one benefited from it but Arms dealers and Wealthy Americans who supplied both sides.  Once American entered the war their was a huge wave of patriotic manipulation directed and building up enthusiasm for the war.

Zinn goes on into the World War Two era.  He acknowledges that there was a real reason for Americans to enter the war.  Not everyone will agree with his reasons for saying there was no need to use atomic weapons on Japan. He bases this claim on the fact that Japanese ambassador to Russia had basically agreed to surrender under the condition the Emperor stays in place.  American leadership refused this.

He goes into the Korean and Vietnam wars as well, ending with the Clinton era.

I found Zion’s claims totally convincing.  I urge all interested in American history to read A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. 


Howard Zinn was a historian, author, professor, playwright, and activist. His life’s work focused on a wide range of issues including race, class, war, and history, and touched the lives of countless people.

Zinn grew up in Brooklyn in a working-class, immigrant household. At 18 he became a shipyard worker and then joined the Air Force and flew bombing missions during World War II. These experiences helped shape his opposition to war and his strong belief in the importance of knowing history.

After attending college under the G.I. Bill, he worked as a warehouse loader while earning a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. From 1956 to 1963, he taught at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, where he became active in the Civil Rights Movement. After being fired by Spelman for his support for student protesters, Zinn became a professor of political science at Boston University, where he taught until his retirement in 1988.

Zinn was the author of dozens of books, including A People’s History of the United States, the play Marx in Soho, Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal, and SNCC: The New Abolitionists. He received many awards including the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for Nonfiction, the Eugene V. Debs award for his writing and political activism, and the Ridenhour Courage Prize.” From

Mel Ulm 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

O, The Brave Music by Dorothy Evelyn Smith - 1943- British Library Women Writers Edition published 2020 - with a Preface by Lucy Evans and an Afterword by Simon Thomas

O, The Brave Music by Dorothy Evelyn Smith - 1943- British Library Women Writers Edition published 2020 - with a Preface by Lucy Evans and an Afterword by Simon Thomas

Part of a curated collection of forgotten works by early to mid-century women writers, the British Library Women Writers series highlights the best middlebrow fiction from the 1910s to the 1960s, offering escapism, popular appeal and plenty of period detail to amuse, surprise and inform.-  From The British Library

There are currently 15 works in the British Library Women Writers Series.  I am hoping to read through them. Most are fairly brief  and all include author bios and expert commentaries.  The Kindle Editions are under $4.00.

British Women Library Women Series Works I have so far read

Strange Journey by Maud Cairnes -1935

The Love Child by Edith Olivier - 1927

Tea is So Intoxicating by Ursula Bloom (writing as Mary Essex)- 1950

Father by Elizabeth Von Armin - 1931

O, The Brave Music by Dorothy Evelyn Smith - 1943

O, The Brave Music opening about 1910 in a small town not too far from London. It is narrated by Ruan, looking back to thirty years ago starting when she was seven.  She lives with her father, a Non-Conformist Minister and her mother.  The mother is a great beauty, now in a love-less marriage.

 When illness causes Ruan to move out to a friends place up in the Yorkshire Moors, she falls in love with the place . There are some beautiful descriptions of the place by an author who obviously knows and loves the area herself. It was really lovely reading about her visits to the almost wild life up on the moors with her friend David, a young lad a bit older than herself.

We follow Ruan and her familiy’s life through about 12 years, ending prior to World War One.  Her mother leaves her father for another man.  Her father goes to Africa to be a missionary, leaving Ruan and her older sister in the care of the estate owner she stayed at earlier. Ruan comes to love Reading, riding in the moors, and David, whose passion is to become a doctor.

O, The Brave Music perfectly develops a broad spectrum of characters.  There is much more in this wonderful work than i have mentioned.

My goal is to read all 15 of The British Library books by July One of next Year.

“Dorothy Evelyn Smith (née Jones) was born in 1893 in the Peak District of Derbyshire.

Her father was a minister in the United Free Methodist Church, the family eventually moving to London. However, Dorothy set many of her novels in Yorkshire, which she knew well.

By 1911 Dorothy was a part-time student at an art school, and in 1914, she married James Smith, the son of another non-conformist minister.

During World War I, Dorothy began to write poetry and short stories, some of which were published. The Smiths had moved to Essex by 1920 where a daughter and later a son were born. The couple remained in the county, and after James’s death, Dorothy moved to a bungalow at Leigh-on-Sea to be near her son and his family.

In the early years of the Second World War, Dorothy Evelyn Smith began writing her first novel, O, the Brave Music (1943), the first of eleven novels ultimately published, the last in 1966.

Dorothy Evelyn Smith died at the age of 76, in 1969”

Mel Ulm


Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Reading Life Review - August 2022


The Reading Life is a multicultural

book blog, committed to Literary Globalism . 

  Our posts have been read over 6.7 milion times.  Our readers range from scholars from The Vatican Library,MacArthur Genius Grant Winners, publishing industry professionals to teenage   book lovers.  

Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among our Interests.  Narrative non-fiction also is important to us.

Top Row

  1. Ida Maze - Belarus to Montreal, Canada - leading figure among Yiddish speaking writers and Émigrés to Montreal, highly regarded for her poetry-first appearance 
  2. Marcus Samuelsson- Ethiopia to Sweden to USA- Celebrity Chef and Cook Book Author- First Appearance 
  3. Vasily Grossman- Russia-author of seminal novels on Russia during World War Two -first appearance 

Bottom Row

  1. Neil Gaiman - UK - multi-awarded S/F writer 
  2. Penelope Fitzgerald- UK - Booker Prize Winner

Three authors were initially featured in August, three are deceased and three are men.

Birth Countries of Authors

  1. UK - 2
  2. Ethiopia-1
  3. Belarus- 1
  4. Russia - 1

Blog Stats

6,757,244 of our posts have been viewed 

There are currently 4106 posts online 

Home Countries of Readers

  1. USA 
  2. India 
  3. Netherlands 
  4. Canada 
  5. Philippines 
  6. UK
  7. Sweden 
  8. Germany 
  9. Australia 
  10. Norway

The five most viewed posts were on short stories 

In August I read but did not post upon

Koshersoul by Michael W. Twitty

And “Five Years Next Sunday” by Idza Luhumyo

Winner of the 2019/20  Caine Prize

Future Hopes. My enthusiasm for life is in decline, as reflected in the fewer  number of posts this month than 

in any prior month.

Monday, August 29, 2022

The Red Rooster: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem by Marcus Samuelsson - 2016 - A Memoir, Cook Book and a history of Harlem


The Red Rooster: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem by Marcus Samuelsson - 2016 - A Memoir, Cook Book and a history of Harlem 

Website of The Red Rooster

The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty would be an excellent companion to today’s book.

Anyone with an interest in American food history or contemporary cooking will greatly benefit from this marvelous book. Samuelsson knows and deeply loves the food found in America cooked by descendants of Africa slaves, many of whose grandparents arrived in New York City during the Great Migration.  Harlem, starting in the 1930s, became a primary living area for African Americans in New York City  and later Hispanic people in what was called Spanish Harlem.

The book begins after a very lucid introduction with a detailed account of the spices he includes in his recipies.  He explains where they originated, their flavor and in the case of items not in grocery stores, where you may buy them online. Samuelsson explains that the foods of the African Diaspora 

are derivitive from hundreds of seperate cultures, from  this southern cooking arose.  

There are lots of recipes, which you can cook, in the book.  Samuelsson talks about the operation of his business. He turned it into a place where people from all over could enjoy wonderful food. There are chapters on cocktails, chicken (with his recipe for Chicken and Waffles), on greens, on Sunday brunch,  and a chapter on Puerto Rican food.

The account of President Obama visit is very exciting with a recipe for “Obama’s Short Ribs”.  There is even a recipe for his special hot sauce, try it with a glass of milk nearby.

A history of Harlem emerges in the recipes.

This book is a delicious and delightful.  

“Award-Winning Chef, Restaurateur, Author, and Co-Owner of Red Rooster Harlem

Marcus Samuelsson is the acclaimed chef behind many restaurants worldwide including Red Rooster Harlem, MARCUS Montreal, Red Rooster Overtown in Miami, Streetbird at Yankee Stadium and Marcus at Baha Mar Fish + Chop House in the Bahamas. Samuelsson was the youngest person to ever receive a three-star review from The New York Times and has won multiple James Beard Foundation Awards including Best Chef: New York City. He was tasked with planning and executing the Obama Administration’s first State dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Samuelsson was also honored with curating the team of chefs for the 2022 Met Gala menu where he selected the lineup of three women chefs who represented the rich diversity of American cooking. Samuelsson was crowned champion of television shows Top Chef Masters and Chopped All Stars, and was the winning mentor on ABC’s The Taste. He was also newly named Iron Chef on Netflix’s rebooted Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend. Samuelsson received the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Personality for his TV series titled No Passport Required” from

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald - 1978 - Introduction 2014 by David Nicholls - Preface by Hermione Lee


The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald - 1978 

  • Introduction 2014 by David Nicholls - Preface by Hermione Lee

Earlier this Month I posted on At Freddie’s, Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel set in a Children’s theater in London.

Prior to this month The Beginning of Spring was the fourth novel by Penelope Fitzgerald which I have had the great pleasure of reading.   I have posted on her Offshore, then her acknowledged by all masterwork, Blue Flower based on the life of Novalis, one of her numerous short stories, as well as a novel, Human Voices set at the BBC during 1940.  I also read Penelope Fitzgerald:A Life by Hermione Lee.

The Bookshop is set in the imaginary small English Seaside town of Hardborough,said to be a thinly disguised version of Southwold.  Florence Green, a middle aged widow, has decided to open a book store. She picks as her location an abandoned building said to be haunted by a poltergeist.  We go along as she applies for a bank loan, overcomes lots of obstacles and at last opens.  For a year she does well, steadily building clients, starting a lending library, establishing relationships with wholesale book vendors and even hires a teenage helper and a part time bookkeeper. We get glimpses of the lives of numerous village residents.  Basically if your family has not lived their for at least two hundred years you are considered a  new arrival.

Then the very influential wealthy Mrs Gamart decides she wants to start a cultural center using the bookstore property. Her nephew, member of parliament for the area, gets a bill passed which allows the town to force Mrs Green to sell her property to be used for the cultural center. Sadly Mrs Green is evicted.

The novel focuses on class differences, snobbery and micro aggressions perpetrated on Mrs Green as well as the love of some residents for her store and for books.  It was a lot of fun learning what happened when she displayed Lolita in the window of her store.

The Bookshop  was short listed for The Booker 


I greatly enjoyed the Bookshop . It is for sale as a Kindle for $1.95.

PENELOPE FITZGERALD (1916–2000) was one of the most elegant and distinctive voices in British fiction. She won the 

Circle Award in fiction for The Blue Flower, the Booker Prize for Offshore, and three of her novels—The Bookshop, The Gate of Angels, and The Beginning of Spring—were short-listed for the Booker Prize.