Exuberant—and funny—without neglecting the seriousness of surviving a year of love and war.

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India Charm Offensive

AN EXPAT PILOT FLIES THE SOUTH ASIA JUNGLE

An American helicopter pilot recounts his first year flying over the jungles of India.

Sobotta’s debut memoir kicks off on a Korean-owned fishing boat in the southwestern Pacific, where he flies a helicopter to aid the crew in its hunt for tuna. But poor safety standards and slapdash repairs to his aircraft make him uneasy, and he enthusiastically leaves the sea behind to take a job flying for paramilitary units in eastern India despite his new employers’ upfront warnings of the possible danger. An accomplished aviator, Sobotta thrives in the South Asian air, his time split among transporting soldiers, businessmen, and other VIPs; providing lifesaving airlifts to injured and sick soldiers; and doing reconnaissance work. The challenges are many, from navigating above long stretches of isolated jungle to weathering the heavy rains of the monsoon season and being fired upon by Maoist-Naxalite insurgents. His time on the ground becomes more difficult in its way—the constant stream of scorchingly spicy food, laxness of local hygiene, and eager mosquitoes often leave him feeling ill. Yet, while clearly uncomfortable with his rapid immersion, the expat pilot takes these trials remarkably in stride, an attitude that allows for great exploration, particularly with the beautiful and restless 30-something girl-next-door, Anika. The memoir is a wellspring of humor, with the author’s penchant for the occasional puns and corny jokes endearing and entertaining even when worthy of an eye-roll. Rejecting the tired trope of foreign exoticness, the narrative focuses instead on the author’s adventures and time between them. The book excels at balance: for instance, those interested in flying a helicopter will get a crash course in not crashing without being bored by constant technical intricacies. And while the humor will likely be the work’s most memorable feature, it shows a knack for pathos as well, from capturing the fear of undisciplined jungle soldiers to recalling the smell of gore inside Sobotta’s cockpit. As in the best memoirs, the author understands the need for complete candidness; he’s not afraid to share embarrassing anecdotes of drunken outings or scatological assaults from the eager bladders of India’s cows.

Exuberant—and funny—without neglecting the seriousness of surviving a year of love and war.

Pub Date: May 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-71871-1

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Globerunner Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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