Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

November 8th, 2010

BookClubSandwich Takes on Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle

by Gwen

BookClubSandwich is a online discussion group hosted by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness and Andi of Estella’s Revenge. This month, they are taking on The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and I couldn’t resist.  You might want to check out Kim’s post to see what she is thinking so far.


The Jungle was first published in serial form in 1905, then was published as a whole in 1906 and they couldn’t keep the darn thing on the shelves. It was a smash hit.

The sad thing is that it was a hit for all of the wrong reasons, or at least not the reasons that Sinclair meant to get across. What, for him, was  supposed to be a novel showing the plight of the working class turned out to be a huge headache for the meatpacking industry. Most descriptions of the book to this day call attention to its muckracing history. And while  changes in that industry were certainly needed, I can’t help it feel a bit sorry that most of the readers missed the point entirely.

Yes, a majority of the story centers around a family that, for a while, works in the meat-packing industry. Yes, the descriptions of how said meat make it from pasture to the table are enough to make you want to become a vegetarian. You betcha, I am glad that the public outcry after reading the book led to the Meat Inspection Act which eventually became the FDA. (Which when you think about it is amazing because Teddy Roosevelt was in office at the time and he HATED any kind of government interference/regulation)

What got lost in all of the tubercular beef struggle was the story of the family, of many thousands of families really. People were living on the edge of starvation and homelessness constantly at the turn of the 20th century thanks to being what many call “wage slaves”. There were no workers rights, no unemployment insurance, no health insurance, no disability, no social programs, and let’s face it, a good portion of the immigrant population couldn’t even read English. If you got hurt at work and missed a day or fourteen, you were on your own. It was a hand to mouth existence and one day of missed work could mean that your family starve, froze to death and died on you. Poverty just wasn’t something that you could even dream of digging yourself out of.

So what did America gain from The Jungle at the time? They gained healthy meat that most of the people and definitely the family in the novel couldn’t afford. Don’t get me wrong, we are still reaping the benefits of what changed thanks to this book. For the most part, I know now that when I buy sausage, it isn’t going to full of fillers and whatever Joe the sausage guy found on the floor along with a helping of TB and God knows what else.

Still, it took years before any real social or economic changes happened and they are still happening today. What is worse, is that while America has benefited by leaps and bounds, there are still countries in the world where slavery happens. (Yes, I dropped the “wage” term, let’s just call a spade a spade)

What I got from The Jungle- a meandering tale of what it meant to be an immigrant in the Boom Town of Chicago and probably many other large cities at the time. The pain, the struggle and the loss was something that 99.9% of people today just cannot fathom.

What I didn’t expect to get- Hope. People are good at heart. They may not see the suffering in front of them, but when you make them look….really make them see, it can inspire them to be a part of the change for a better world.

I also caught the Upton Sinclair bug and have been on a kick about him and his work ever since. Did you know that he founded California’s chapter of the ACLU and ran for Congress? I sure as heck didn’t.

I need to thank Kim for getting me over my fear of chewing and digesting classics. I have never been afraid of reading them, but somehow felt that discussing them was a bit out of my league. It is nice to know that there is indeed a league of our own once in awhile. (pun totally intended)

I bet that you thought that this was supposed to be a review, not a political commentary. Sorry, I got on my soap box somehow. That is how I seem to roll these days.

October 12th, 2010

The Lucifer Code by Charles Brokaw

by Gwen

The Lucifer Code by Charles Brokaw

I am going to tell you something that might make you close this very window and never speak to me again. I know, a risky move, but that is why you have stuck here this long right? I take big risks and am not afraid to tell you when I crash and burn.

My secret? How nice of you to get me back on point.

I like Dan Brown. I know, his tells the same story seemingly over and over again, but I get a thrill out of the history and code stuff that he weaves into ‘dem stories. I read something about the Vatican in his books and it leads me down a rabbit hole of research and nonfiction reading. It sends me on a fact finding mission. I dig that; research rabbit holes are cool in my book.

Why am I telling you this? The Lucifer Code is similar to Dan Brown…..only deeper, cooler, and in a way scarier. We are talking “Lucifer” after all, as in Satan. That and Dr. Thomas Lourds, the main character comes across as a real person, not just a brilliant historian and linguistic code breaker. He has flaws and weaknesses just like the rest of us.

The rest of the characters are fully developed as well and I will go out on a limb and say that there is enough of a cast that at least one will appeal to every reader. The one that I identified with was Cleena MacKenna, the daughter of the long departed Ryan MacKenna, former member of the Continuity Irish Republican Army. Her daddy may be gone, but he taught her all he knew about arms dealing, and making her way in the big, dark, world. (Notice: I am not saying that my dad was in the IRA, however I plead the 5th as far as my mom’s side of the family goes)

Sense of humor is also really important to me and this one has it in spades. For example, check out these lines……

“Careful,” Cleena said. “You keep up with that ill-tempered attitude and somebody will drop a house on you.”

“Really?” Olympia said. “You did not just say that. We’re here, following up in the footsteps of a man who gave us the most intriguing and important book in the Bible, and you are talking about The Wizard of Oz?”


Where does it start? Professor Lourds lands in Istanbul to give a series of lectures at the behest of a colleague and on again-off again love interest when a young red head catches his eye……

Charles Brokaw knows his stuff, but the only flaw I see in The Lucifer Code is that he wrote it under a pseudonym. He has written another book, The Atlantis Code. Maybe if I read that one I will be able to solve the mystery of just who Charles Brokaw is. Will the real author please stand up? It is hard to stand behind a phantom.



We shall see if this embedded form thingie works for a copy of Charles Brokaw’s The Lucifer Code……

October 1st, 2010

A Bit About Me (Me) ~ I Want to Live in a Zoo

by Gwen



It is time once again, to step out from behind the book and get to know one another better.

We all have a story and a life beyond the book and thanks to Danielle from There’s A Book, we get share. She asks the questions and we get to answer.




This Week’s Question: Describe your dream home and where it would be located?

My dream home would be large enough so that we all have our own spaces. I thought that we had managed that this last move, but then the boomerang child came back and brought a friend too. (If you are lucky enough not to know what a boomerang child is, it is a young adult that moves in and out multiple times while she figures out what she wants to be when she grows up) This meant that I lost my office/craft room.

On the other hand, I don’t want a house that is so large that it is a royal pain to clean. I am not so good with that and get all persnickety when I have to clean up after two young people that seem to think that I am their maid.

At least 2 bathrooms, don’t make me talk about that any further.

You will notice that I don’t care about the era, style or layout. All of that stuff can be change easily if you are handy. I just happen to be handy:)

 Location, Location, Location….

My house has to be on the Central Coast of California near, but not to near the beach. I have lived in LA, San Francisco, and in the mountains of Washington State and this is where I want to be. The weather is heavenly, 75 degrees year ‘round, there is always stuff going on and things to do and I am just as close to LA and I am SF. Perfect.

I would also need at least 1 to 5 acres for my secret animal experiments. (insert scary BRa ha ha laugh here) You see, I have a fascination with pigmy goats and other wee creatures and I want them all!


This is the best picture of my dear Sasha that I could find easily. She was housetrained, like a dog, and was a dear companion. I want a house where I can have a whole slew of them!

So what is on your wish list for a dream house?


September 30th, 2010

Cross-Bloggination with The Lost Entwife

by Gwen

I want to thank Gwen for hosting my (late) entry to Cross-Bloggination, a
brainchild of mine that I’ve been thoroughly enjoying! It’s an honor to be guest-
posting here. Chew and Digest Books is one of my favorite blogs to read!

I read
a few really striking books this month that had me reeling with how powerful
they were – but none compared to Room by Emma Donoghue.

If you haven’t heard of this book, let me tell you a little bit about it. This is the
story of Jack and Ma. Jack and Ma have been living in a small room for the entire
lifetime of Jack. Ma has been living there even longer. They see sunlight through a
skylight. They have everything for a meager existence within the four walls provided
by Room.

Does that intrigue you? It did me. Enough that I went out and bought the book
without reading a single review, without sampling Donoghue’s writing like I normally
do. Then I came home and Room ousted the top book on my TBR pile without a
single apology.

I stayed up until 3am reading this book. I couldn’t put it down. I was horrified and
fascinated at the same time. I was worried about how I would recommend this book
(because I knew within a few pages that I’d be recommending it) without seeming to
be perverse. All I can say is it impacted me deeply. It made me uncomfortable. It
made me angry. It made me full of sorrow.

Due to the sheer volume of books I read these days it’s pretty rare when one can
affect me so deeply that I’m moved to tears and have a difficult time moving onward
to another book. Room did that to me. Jack and Ma have made a little spot in my
hearts and will remain there for quite some time.

You can view my review of Room by Emma Donoghue on my blog,
The Lost Entwife.

Be sure to check out Danielle from
There’s a Book’s post on my blog
as well for our Cross-Bloggination feature and
Gwen from here at Chew and Digest Books has
posted over on Danielle’s blog

September 3rd, 2010

A Bit About Me(Me) ~ The One Where I Admit My Downfalls

by Gwen


It is time once again, to step out from behind the book and get to know one another better.

We all have a story and a life beyond the book and thanks to Danielle from There’s A Book, we get share. She asks the questions and we get to answer.

Who is your favorite male character, in a book or on a TV show/movie? Why?

This one had me stumped. Was I supposed to pick a male character that was my personal  superhero? One that made me weak in the knees? A male that I wish my dad had been more like? The leader of my tribe if I found myself on Survivor? What does “favorite” really mean, to me?

I decided to go with a male character that I could relate to, even though, in choosing him, I would be admitting some major character defects. He just also happens to be the main character in my favorite book.

The Great Gatsby

The enigmatic, hopeless romantic, fatally optimistic, Jay Gatsby is my favorite character. While I don’t really consider my past near as shady as Gatsby’s, it was indeed colorful.

What appeals to me about Gatsby is that his goal was his love, Daisy, and no matter what was happening or what was in the way, he never lost sight of that goal. I didn’t have to fight a war, become a bootlegger or do anything illegal to get my man, but there was a lot that we had to go through that seemed insurmountable at the time. That is what I have in common with Fitzgerald’s most compelling character.

I was convinced that we were meant to be and driven, in a healthy way, to do everything that I could to remove the roadblocks that others saw as deal breakers. I continue to be the cheerleader in our relationship. Call me the Little Orphan Annie of Love; “the sun will come out tomorrow!”

Gatsby may have been very flawed and obviously didn’t realize that he was after something that didn’t really exist. I can only hope that I don’t end up learning the same thing in the end of this crazy thing we call love.

Focused. Hopeful. Romantic. Heedless. Obsessive. My fatal flaws.


It also doesn’t hurt to picture Robert Redford in the role….I know that Alan Ladd played him first, but come on, we are talking Robert Redford!