Friday, October 6, 2017

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

  • THE BOOK
    • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
    • June 26, 2014
    • Also by author: Little Fires Everywhere

  • THE PREMISE
    • This is a novel about a family in 1977 Ohio.
    • The mother is Marilyn and the dad is James.
      • James is ethnically Chinese --- his parents were immigrants --- but thoroughly American in all ways except the way he looks. Marilyn is white.
      • They have three children: Nathan (17), Lydia (15) and Hannah (10), all of half-Chinese heritage.
      • James sees too much of himself in his son and treats him dismissively. 
      • Marilyn gave up college and a career to marry and have children and she resents it. She compensates by making Lydia her favorite and works with her so she will become the doctor Marilyn couldn't be.
        • Lydia has no desire to be a doctor but agrees with whatever her mother says to keep her mother happy
      • The parents basically ignore their youngest child who craves their affection, all reserved for Lydia.
    • The first two lines of the book are: "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet."
    • So the story turns out to be a mystery of why Lydia died while giving us the backstory on the whole family and why things are the way they are.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • As I was reading this book I realized that I was approximately Lydia's age! I turned 15 in 1977. Creepy.
    • I liked the story and stayed up late to finish it because I had to know how it turned out.
    • Recommended for those who enjoy popular fiction with a mystery at its heart.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Andy Warhol was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb

  • THE BOOK
    • Andy Warhol was a Hoarder: Inside the Minds of History's Great Personalities by Claudia Kalb
    • Published March 24, 2016
    • First work by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • Using modern psychology the author covers 12 different famous people and the diagnoses they might inspire if they were alive now.
    • You also get a general history of each mental health issue and the ways it was dealt with in the past and how it is treated now. 
      • This is combined with a biographical sketch of each person.
    • The subjects and their issues are:
      • Andy Warhol and hoarding
      • Marilyn Monroe and Borderline Personality Disorder
      • Howard Hughes and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
      • Diana, Princess of Wales and bulimia
      • Abraham Lincoln and depression
      • Christine Jorgensen and Gender Dysphoria
      • Frank Lloyd Wright and Narcissistic Personality Disorder
      • Betty Ford and substance abuse
      • Charles Darwin and anxiety
      • George Gershwin and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
      • Fyodor Dostoevsky and gambling addiction
      • Albert Einstein and the autism spectrum (specifically Asperger's)

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This was an entertaining book with a few sloggy chapters. 
      • To each their own but I found the Wright, Lincoln and Dostoevsky chapters boring.
        • Wright was utterly unpleasant. Dostoevsky had a tragic life.
    • I had no idea about Andy Warhol's hoarding so that was interesting. The chapter on Christine Jorgensen, who had sex-reassignment surgery in Denmark in 1950, was a brave person in a time when people were not understanding about such things.
    • Some of the diagnoses seem spot on --- obviously Betty Ford suffered from substance abuse issues --- but some are on less firm ground, particularly the one with Lincoln and depression. Could he have had clinical depression and still run the country and managed the war efforts?
    • It was a fun read overall. 
      • What is it that makes reading about OCD and hoarding so fascinating? Is it because we ourselves think we can tip over into those disorders at any time?
    • Recommended for those interested in the history of the above listed issues. Read only the chapters of the people who interest you, that's my advice.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Stephen Colbert's Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert

  • THE BOOK
    • Stephen Colbert's Midnight Confessions by Stephen Colbert and the other writers of "The Late Show"
    • Published September 5, 2017
    • Other works by author include I Am America (And So Can You!), America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't and I Am a Pole (And So Can You!)

  • THE PREMISE
    • Stephen Colbert is the host of "The Late Show" on CBS.
    • He does a weekly bit where he "confesses" to the audience. His line is, "They may not technically be sins but I do feel bad about them."
    • This book collects a handful of the confessions, basically one on each page, along with a bit of illustration by Sean Kelly.

  • MY THOUGHTS 
    • I watch "The Late Show" and have seen the Midnight Confessions portion many times.
      • He usually goes through about a dozen of them each time.
      • The book does not collect the complete confessions and is more of a greatest hits collection.
    • It took me about 15 minutes to read.
    • Here's the one I thought was the funniest:
      • "When I receive a save-the-date card I don't even save the card."
    • Amusing but light in content. I wish they had included more.
    • Recommended for fans of Stephen Colbert and can toss it off at the bookstore or library.
    • ★ ★ ★

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Bravetart by Stella Parks

  • THE BOOK
    • Bravetart: Iconic American Desserts by Stella Parks
    • August 15, 2017
    • First book by author

  • THE PREMISE
    • The author is a pastry chef whose work is featured on the website Serious Eats (seriouseats.com).
    • This is a cookbook about American desserts for such things as peanut brittle, blueberry muffins, brownies, vanilla wafers, ice cream, lemon meringue pie, ice cream sundaes, hot fudge sauce, marshmallows, sandwich cookies, toaster pastries, Twinkies, Snickers, chocolate chip cookies and much more.
    • You will learn the history of the various desserts immediately followed by the recipe and variations.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • It never occurred to me that the library would have cookbooks to borrow but they do!
      • Better to check a cookbook out before buying it as they can be kinda pricey.
    • I adored the history of all the desserts! In some ways it is a history of America. Quite fascinating.
    • I checked out each recipe too to see if it was something I'd want to try but even though the author constantly referred to how easy certain things were, I am no baker.
      • I get the appeal of making things like marshmallows and Oreos from scratch. I adore sweets of all kinds but I really prefer to put my cooking skills towards savory meals than desserts.
    • There are lovely photos of every main dessert and lots of pictures of ephemera related to the history of the item too.
    • I perused a few reviews on Good Reads and found a few fun comments:
      • "I was tempted to try Fig Newtons but the words 'piping bag' were a wake up call!"
      • "Junk food made at home. Ick."
    • Someone else commented on the easily found ingredients and I suppose that's mostly true but one recipe --- I forget which one --- called for ground "freeze-dried corn" and I am still not sure where one finds that! Whole Foods? Trader Joe's? Safeway? Um, no thanks.
      • Lots of variations in flour too: all-purpose, bread, rice, corn, and others. If I recall correctly the freeze-dried corn was supposed to be ground up as a flour too.
        • My motto is "if it needs something other than all-purpose flour I'm not making it".
    • It really is a pretty good cookbook with lots of explanations for WHY she recommends different flours and other ingredients. And if you would prefer treats without all the preservatives and chemicals, then this book would be perfect for you.
    • ★ ★ ★

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Something from the Oven by Laura Shapiro

  • THE BOOK
    • Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro
    • Published April 28, 2005
    • Other works by author include: Julia Child, What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories, and Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century.
  • THE PREMISE
    • After World War II women returned to their homes from the wartime work force. 
    • Food businesses were creating new products to make life easier for the modern cook.
      • This went hand in hand with the new appliances for the kitchen.
    • People today assume that everyone ate TV dinners in the 1950s and that women embraced the new frozen foods (and other shortcuts) now available to them.
      • Frozen foods had been around at least since the 1930s but not many stores had the equipment necessary to carry them. This was before the advent of the big supermarkets.
      • I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and TV dinners were special treats, not the norm. My mother cooked most nights and eating out was another rare treat.
        • This jibes with the author's premise that women didn't jump on the frozen food bandwagon in any great way in the 1950s.
    • There are sections covering the frozen food industry, the Pillsbury Bake-Off, Poppy Cannon (The Can-Opener Cookbook), Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking and "The French Chef"), MFK Fisher, Alice B. Toklas Gertrude Stein's partner), Peg Bracken (The I Hate to Cook Book), James Beard, Betty Crocker (not a real person but based on and played by real people) and Betty Friedan, to name a few topics.
      • Poppy Cannon was a new name to me and I found her story fascinating.
        • Her birth name was Lillian Gruskin. She worked as a food writer for several magazines and collaborated with Alice B. Toklas on a food book.
        • She was already married when she met Walter White, who worked for the NAACP (he was eventually head of the organization from 1931-1955).
          • Poppy had been born in South Africa and she was white (also Jewish).
          • Walter had white skin, blue eyes and blond hair. He had 5 black great-great-great grandparents and 27 white ones but as someone born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, he was considered black and that is how he identified.
        • Thanks to the times, and his work with the NAACP, their marriage was an affront to everyone. (That and they were both married to others --- and already had children --- when they fell in love.)
        • They met in 1927 but didn't get married until 1949. He died in 1955 and she died in 1975 (in a fall from the balcony of her 23rd floor apartment in New York City, a possible suicide).

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I have recently read another book by Laura Shapiro (What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories, see review here) and this title looked interesting to me too.
    • I have the 50the anniversary edition of Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Book on hold at the library.
    • I definitely enjoyed the history of the 1950s as related to food. Poppy Cannon was interesting, as stated above, but I also really enjoyed the history of the Pillsbury Bake-Off as well as the creation of Betty Crocker.
    • Recommended for those with an interest in American food history of the 1950s.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen

  • THE BOOK
    • Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen
    • Published June 20, 2017
    • One other book by author: Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema. Also the Culture writer at Buzzfeed.com

  • THE PREMISE
    • From the book jacket blurb: You know the type: the woman who won't shut up, who's too brazen, too opinionated --- too much.
    • The author has written several essays based upon the woman who in her opinion best exemplifies the chapter heading:
      • Too Strong: Serena Williams
      • Too Fat: Melissa McCarthy
      • Too Gross: Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer ("Broad City")
      • Too Slutty: Nicki Minaj
      • Too Old: Madonna
      • Too Pregnant: Kim Kardashian
      • Too Shrill: Hillary Clinton
      • Too Queer: Caitlyn Jenner
      • Too Loud: Jennifer Weiner
      • Too Naked: Lena Dunham

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • This was interesting, especially the biographical information on the women spotlighted.
    • I get that society, aka the Internet, labels women like this but it's not a part of the Internet I frequent.
      • I learned more about the Kardashians from watching "The Soup" where Joel McHale showed clips out of context for laughs. 
        • There was a scene in "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" where Kimmy rattles off every current detail about the Kardashians and then wonders, "How do I know all that?" 
          • I totally get this as I somehow learns details of famous people's lives without even trying sometimes, mainly because I read TV and movie entertainment websites.
        • Pop culture insists we hear about certain famous people and their doings even if we don't care or don't want to know!
      • I root for Serena because I think she is awesome in all ways but I don't actually follow tennis anymore. (I was a Chris Evert fan long, long ago.)
      • I enjoy Melissa McCarthy when I see her in something but I don't seek out her films. That said, I just don't watch many current movies anymore so I could say the same thing about almost any movie star!
      • I voted for Hillary because I am a Democrat. Most of my family are Republicans so my vote would be meaningless if they were the only ones who decided elections!
      • I have never watched "Broad City" and I don't think I have read any books by Jennifer Weiner. Sorry, fellow women!
      • I love much of Madonna's work as she began her career when I was in college so it was part of my personal soundtrack.
      • I don't know any of Nicki's music because I have never developed a taste for hip-hop. I know who she is and have never assumed she was "slutty" because of the outfits she wears during her work as a musician.
      • I watched "Girls" and loved it. I also read Lena's book.
    • Advice for those who read this list of names and hate some of them: it's okay to ignore the people you aren't interested in! 
      • Don't like the Kardashians for instance? Don't watch their shows! Don't click on links about them! It's okay!
    • Again, most of this was fairly interesting but because they were personal essays some bias was evident. The author does not seem to like Madonna at all because she IS too old, apparently. 
    • Recommended for those who are interested in popular culture and how society labels women.
    • ★ ★ ★

Monday, September 18, 2017

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

  • THE BOOK
    • What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro
    • Published July 25, 2017
    • Other works by author are: Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America and Julia Child.

  • THE PREMISE
    • The six women are:
      • Dorothy Wordsworth, sister to poet William
      • Rosa Lewis, cook and caterer of Edwardian England
      • Eleanor Roosevelt
      • Eva Braun, Hitler's mistress/wife
      • Barbara Pym, author
      • Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex & the Single Girl and longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine
    • By delving into their eating habits --- or in the cases of Braun and Gurley Brown, non-eating habits --- the author seeks to learn about the women and their lives.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I found this quite interesting. Generally, when you read a biography of someone they seldom mention what or how they ate. This book rectifies that for six women.
    • Here are a few tidbits:
      • I had never heard of Rosa Lewis but her life was used as a basis for the Masterpiece Theatre show, "The Duchess of Duke Street".
        • Interesting to learn about fancy food of those days.
      • Eleanor Roosevelt, who came from a wealthy background, rarely cooked but when she did she used a chafing dish to make scrambled eggs.
        • When the Roosevelts entered the White House, Eleanor hired Henrietta Nesbit. Mrs. Nesbit was a TERRIBLE cook. The scuttlebut in Washington D.C. was that you should make sure you ate before going to the White House for a meal. Some samples:
          • "Eggs Mexican": rice topped with bananas and fried eggs
          • "Pear Salad": canned pears covered in cream cheese, mayonnaise, chives, and candied ginger.
          • Five "stuffed eggs" were supposed to feed 6 people. (It is unclear what stuffed eggs are? Like deviled eggs?)
          • Dinner appetizer: canned, cut pineapple rolled in crushed peppermint candy. (Note to my husband: guess what's for dinner tonight!)
          • "Asheville Salad": canned tomato soup in a gelatin ring mold
          • Probably the best line in the book: "How the men reacted to "Jellied Bouillon Salad' is not recorded."
          • Bess Truman ultimately fired Mrs. Nesbit for continuing to serve brussels sprouts after she was asked not to and she continued to do so anyway.
        • The Roosevelts lived in the White House for 12 years, all with this horrible cook! The author thinks it was one of Eleanor's methods of punishing her husband for his infidelity.
      • Eva Braun was only 17 when she met Hitler and was basically his mistress from then on. She was immature and star struck. Her role was to be the perfect German woman. That meant keeping a good table for Hitler and his cronies but eating very little of it herself.
        • I wonder how the world would have treated Eva had she decided against suicide in the bunker (she was 33). Would she be hated utterly? Something of a celebrity? She would have loved being famous but not being infamous.
      • Helen Gurley Brown ate practically nothing but she would cook regularly for her husband. She made breakfast for him every day. She weighed 105 pounds with a height of 5'4" and was never fat a day in her life.
    • Recommended for those who enjoy reading about food, especially over the last 100 or so years.
    • ★ ★ ★ ★