|Brown, Kody with Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn
Becoming Sister Wives: The Story of an Unconventional Marriage
|Everyone is fascinated by polygamy. The idea that a man could marry more than one woman and that those women could be happy about the situation is almost unthinkable to most of us who are struggling to maintain a "simple" monogamous relationship. In the last few years, television executives have finally decided to capitalize on the allure of polygamy by introducing series such as HBO’s Big Love and TLC’s Sister Wives. I’ll admit it; I have been watching Sister Wives since the beginning. I started off, like many others, looking for the prurient details of the lives of Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn and waiting for the train wreck that never happened. It turns out that these women, who all just happen to love the same man, also respect each other and dote on each other’s children as if they were their own, because, in more than one way, they are. This book nicely supplements the television show, providing the back stories for the relationship each of the four wives has with Kody. It also discusses those hardships and rearrangements in priority that each wife had to endure whenever a new wife or child was added to the family or their living situation was altered. I liked the way the book was organized. Each person had their own chapter in the sections of Matrimony, Sorority, Family, and Celebrity. This way, just like on the show, each of the wives had her own voice and could tell her story in her own words. Then you get to hear Kody’s take on it as well. I’ve continued to watch the show and looked forward to reading this book for the same reason; I like how normal their family is. I am awed by how self-aware they all are, how well they communicate with each other and their children, and what genuinely nice people they seem to be. I want to be their friend. Even if you never plan to watch the show, you’ll enjoy the story of how these five people make their relationships and family work, and you might even find a tip or two for your own life in there as well.
Recommended February 2013
Livwise: Easy Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Life
|Eat fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Eat whole grains.
Eat organic. Eat good proteins and fats. Limit red meat. Don't eat
processed foods. Exercise daily. This is the advice we hear over and
over again in almost every mainstream diet/healthy lifestyle book
published nowadays. Are we more likely to listen when we're being
told by breast cancer survivor and "Let's Get Physical" singer Olivia
Newton-John? If you’re a woman of a certain age, the answer might
be "yes". Olivia shares with us some of her favorite healthy recipes
that help keep her, at age 62, feeling fit and looking like a woman
25 years younger. All of the recipes looked very easy to prepare and
almost all of the ingredients can now be found in any large supermarket.
(You might have to visit a health food store for a few.) These delicious
dishes, such as chicken with ginger, orange stuffing and cashew, macadamia
and raspberry tart, have me re-thinking my food and cooking choices.
Recommended January 2013
Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
|He was born and raised in Camp 14, one of the roughest
of the labor camps in North Korea. Despite satellite photos that prove
their presence, the North Korean government still denies these camps
exist. No one who spent their whole life in a camp is known to ever
have escaped, except for Shin Dong-hyuk. Shin grew up in an environment
that none of us could even begin to understand. In order to survive,
he was required to snitch on his family, classmates, and co-workers.
Everyone around him, even his own mother, was competition for food,
clothing, and shelter. Shin never developed the bonds with other people
that most of us take for granted. There was no unconditional love
from his parents or amusing times shared with friends. His life was
all about back-breaking work and scrounging for food. Shin’s first
memory, at the tender age of 4, is of an execution of a fellow prisoner.
This book kept my attention the whole way through because even though
I knew he would escape, I wanted to see what happened next. Shin’s
story is hard to read and just because he escapes, it does not necessarily
mean that his life gets easy. But this is an account worth reading
and the continued struggle of the North Korean people is important
for people to realize is still very much an issue.
Recommended October 2012
Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler
|Butterfly collecting is big business. The black market
players earn tens of thousands of dollars a month selling rare specimens
to collectors, while species get closer and closer to extinction.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Agent Ed Newcomer finds himself working deep
undercover to catch one of the world’s biggest butterfly smugglers.
But Yoshi Kojima is no fool. He is wily, distrustful of others, and
demanding of his “business” partners. Newcomer has a hard time keeping
up with Yoshi and he slips through Newcomer’s net more than once.
Will Newcomer ever be able to set up the sting to bring down Yoshi
or will he continue to evade authorities and contribute to the further
decimation of the worlds’ butterfly population? This book is nonfiction
but reads like a good suspense/thriller/crime novel. The protagonists,
although completely real, are over-the-top characters, almost comical
in their stereotypical-ness. If you like to read about environmental
issues and like a good legal/police procedural, you will enjoy Winged
Recommended , August 2012
Rules of Civility
| “That’s how quickly New York City comes about – like
a weather vane – or the head of a cobra. Time tells which.” Katey
Kontent (pronounced like the state of well-being) may be young, female,
and working as a secretary in New York City, but she is not naïve.
She is sharp, witty, insightful. Katey understands how the world works
and uses that to her advantage. Or does she? This novel about the
ebbs and flows of friendship paints a picture of 1930's New York that
is hard to resist. You see vivid landscape and buildings covered in
the mist of evening light, like a black and white film, as you get
caught up in Katey’s story. The main focus is a love triangle between
Katey, her best friend, and Tinker Grey, handsome member of New York's
elite. Just when Katey is about to get the upper hand with Tinker,
fate intervenes in a dramatic way. The scenery, wardrobe, and snappy
dialogue scream out to be made into a film. I certainly would see
it. But first, I'd read the book again.
Recommended May 2012
Once Upon a Secret
|“Everyone has a secret. This is mine.” In 1962, nineteen-year-old
Mimi Beardsley lucked into a prime position as a summer intern in
the White House press office. On her fourth day, she slept with President
Kennedy and began an affair that lasted until his death in November
1963. It’s hard to imagine the effect this situation had on a naïve
college girl from the upper-middle class. This secret made a lasting,
devastating impression on her first marriage and her life. The author
explains the choices she made and the reasons she made them, from
the perspective that hindsight gives. One of the major insights this
book provides is an insiders view of the 1960’s White House and the
culture that supported the President, basically allowing him to do
whatever he pleased. Prurient details are few, but they are juicy.
This is a quick, thoroughly interesting read, which may also teach
you a thing or two about the impact of decisions made and words left
Recommended April 2012
| In this beautifully illustrated graphic novel, themes
of female sexual abuse and indifference to the plight of the poor
are skillfully woven with parables and stories from the Qur’an. The
artistry of the frames is dense. Symbolism abounds. The stories of
Dodola and Zam also provide lessons in Arabic script, religion, and
tradition. These lessons do not detract from the plot, which is focused
on the development of their relationship, but allow the reader a deeper
understanding of the context and meaning behind the choices the characters
make during their time together and apart. This hard-hitting graphic
novel may be difficult some for readers due to adult themes, but the
masterful storytelling is well worth reading.
Recommended March 2012
The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship of Sally Wade
|George and Sally met in a bookstore. They were both wearing
sweatpants and baseball caps. Actually it was her dog, Spot, that
introduced them. George invited Sally to see him perform in Las Vegas.
After the show he thanked her for coming and said he would call her
to go out for coffee in four months. Four months would mark one year
since his wife’s death. George did call Sally after four months passed.
He came over for coffee and never left her home again. This is the
beginning of a beautiful story of love, companionship, and humor.
George and Sally spent the last ten years of his life together. This
book is a collection of the notes, doodles, sketches, jokes, and stories
written by each for the other. The pages are covered with artfully
arranged, colorful scraps of paper, and each chapter covers a theme:
items pertaining to Spot, stories about their true home of Jupiter,
food and dining, and wordplay are just a few examples. This tangible
history of their love and relationship lets you get to know George
and Sally on a personal level. You get to peek at their thoughts and
dreams. You follow along as they adjust to living with each other,
squabble, make up, and make love. Everyone wants to be loved like
this and it’s refreshing to see that people actually are. “There’s
no better place in the world than the room where Sally Wade is located.”
— G. Carlin
Recommended November 2011
Amaryllis in Blueberry
|Exquisite language and phrasing are hallmarks of this
novel. This story of a family who leave everything they know in Michigan
to be missionaries in Africa reveals that though you are related,
you can’t be sure what another person is thinking or feeling. We often
think we know someone, when we really don’t know them at all. This
becomes apparent as each chapter of this book is told from a different
family member’s point of view. But since the tale is told in chronological
order, you never lose the story or have to backtrack. You’ll want
to understand each character's motivation, you’ll empathize with them
all, in different ways. I initially picked this book up because of
its beautiful cover, but what I found inside was even better.
Recommended October 2011
What to Cook and How to Cook It
|This has everything I want in a cookbook. The recipes
span a wide range, from an omelet to BLT sandwich to Roast Beef with
Yorkshire Pudding. Each recipe begins with a list of ingredients next
to a photograph of each in its proper amount, stunningly laid out
in neat rows. Besides being simply beautiful, these photos show exactly
what plum tomatoes or shallots look like before you shop for them.
Step by step instructions follow, with a color photo accompanying
each step. You'll know what that dough is supposed to look like once
it has risen, been punched down and stretched out on the sheet pan.
Each recipe concludes with a photo of the finished dish. (“Yes, it’s
supposed to look like that!” or “No, I don’t think that turned out
quite right.”) I have no doubts about succeeding with this fabulous
Recommended September 2011
Cats Are Weird: And More Observations
|If you’ve ever been owned by a cat or been friends with
someone owned by a cat (or two or three or twelve), much in this graphic
novel will look eerily familiar. You’ll wonder how Mr. Brown was able
to get into your house, observe your cat’s adventures, and draw pictures
of exactly what occurs in your domicile on a daily basis. The expressions
he creates on the cats’ faces are precisely animated and precious.
You know exactly what they think and feel. This is a quick read, mostly
sequential picture frames with few words, which makes it accessible
to young readers as well. This wholesome and hilarious graphic novel
can be shared with your entire family, and you’ll find yourself passing
it along to your cat-loving friends. Then you’ll look for the prequel,
Getting Out of a Bag.
Recommended August 2011
Barefoot Contessa, How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips
|Cooking can be just that easy. Ina shares many tricks
to simplify weeknight dinners and entertaining. She's a fan of shortcuts
and describes them exactly. Her recipes aren’t complicated, and don't
include lots of steps and ingredients. I appreciate that when she
likes a product, she specifies the exact brand. (Heinz ketchup is
a pantry must-have.) Every recipe is accompanied by a full color photo.
The introductions for each recipe are interesting, too. I've been
a fan of Ina’s recipes ever since her roasted brussel sprouts made
me a family legend (in a good way, of course), and I imagine these
recipes would increase my status as the family cook. In particular,
I'm eager to try French mussel bisque, roasted shrimp salad, baked
fontina, caeser-roasted swordfish, couscous with toasted pine nuts,
and easy cranberry & apple cake. If you are also a fan of Ina’s television
show, you might recognize several recipes. When I originally saw them
on the show, I thought, “Oh, I should make that.” Now they are here
in print, I will. Maybe you will too.
Recommended January 2011
|A young real estate agent is kidnapped during an open
house. This is the story of her journey back to "real life" after
the year-long ordeal is over. Each chapter deals with a session in
her therapist’s office, where she recounts what happened during and
after her captivity. An insightful and deeply moving look at her recovery
process. I couldn’t put it down.
Recommended October 2010
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
|This tale is an interesting mix of science, social history,
and ethics. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks died of cervical cancer. While
being treated and without her knowledge, doctors took a sample of
her cells and sent them to a scientist attempting to cultivate the
first immortal human cells, cells that would continue to live and
divide outside of a human body. No other cells had done this before,
but hers did. Known as the HeLa cells, they continue to live, and
have aided in such medical breakthroughs as the polio vaccine, in
vitro fertilization, and cloning. They have also gone into space and
were the first human cells to test the effects of an atom bomb. The
entire cell and tissue culture business was based on the reproduction
of the HeLa cells. Her family found out thirty years after she died
and have never received financial compensation, even though others
have profited from the cells' sale and distribution. The juxtaposition
of Henrietta’s and her family’s life stories with the scientists and
scientific discoveries makes for a varied and entertaining read.
Recommended August 2010
Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen
|Michael Symon, Iron Chef and James Beard Award Winner,
presents his first cookbook. With his background, we might expect
fancy food out of reach of the average cook. But no. He explains in
detail fundamental cooking techniques. Most recipes include a photo
to either illustrate the finished dish or highlight one of the steps.
Helpful “Symon Says” tips appear throughout the book. I recommend
Live to Cook for those ready to try a twist on a standard
dish or to branch out into something slightly unusual, but still within
|This was my first graphic novel, and I chose a good one.
The artwork is simple but effective. The writing is believable and
laugh out loud funny. I especially liked the placement of words for
sound effects and other wordless happenings, which reminded me of
the old Batman television show. This adventure comic features
characters with hidden pasts, conflict, intrigue, a touch of romance,
a mythical island, and circus sideshow performers. In short, Far
Arden has a bit of everything for everyone.
Recommended February 2010
|Have you ever had lunch or drinks with a friend who tells
great stories, but doesn't necessarily tell them in chronological
order? Stories that are funny, revealing, a little disjointed, eminently
entertaining. That is what this book reminds me of. I felt like I
was having a personal conversation with Carrie Fisher as she told
me about her life in a stream-of-consciousness kind of way. I enjoyed
insights about her famous parents. Her tales of the making of the
Star Wars movies are priceless. She talks about all of the failed
relationships she has witnessed and in which she has participated.
But her willingness to discuss her addiction and mental health problems
is what moved me the most. Plus, she provides a list of other famous
people who have had similar issues. It always softens the blow when
you can see that others have walked the same path before you. This
is a quick, entertaining read.
Recommended December 2009
Confections of a Closet Master Baker
|This light, satisfying read reminds me of a good pastry.
It has multiple layers, comforts and delights you, and leaves you
wanting just a little bit more. Through an hour by hour account of
her day as master baker and owner of a patisserie in Montpelier, you
learn about the author’s past and present -- connections between her
childhood and family, experiences in soulless LA, and the formation
of her sweet treats. At the end of each chapter is a recipe so you
can recreate one of her decadent pastries. I read four chapters before
I figured out the author’s sister, Sandy, was that Sandra. Bullock,
that is. Part anti-Hollywood exposé, part diary of a Vermont baker
and shopkeeper, and part cookbook, I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
Recommended November 2009
The 19th Wife
|The 19th Wife contains chapters that alternate
between the historical story of Ann Eliza Young, one of Brigham Young's
many wives, and a young man, Jordan Scott, who was kicked out of his
fundamentalist sect in present-day Utah. Ann Eliza left her powerful
husband and then gave many notable speeches against the practice of
polygamy in the late 1800’s. Her chapters trace her childhood, marriage,
subsequent "divorce," which was hotly contested, and her mysterious
later life. The chapters on Jordan constitute a modern-day murder
mystery and center around his efforts to vindicate his mother, the
nineteenth wife of a polygamist, who is accused of killing her husband.
If you’re interested in the private lives of those who practice plural
marriage, this book will not disappoint.
Recommended October 2009
Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea
|If you watch E! late at night, you'll be familiar with
the author of this collection of personal essays. Chelsea Handler
is the star of Chelsea Lately, Girls Behaving Badly
on the Oxygen network, and is an accomplished stand-up comedian. If
you've seen Chelsea’s shows or routines you won't be shocked by her
subject matter (her own life), and the language she uses. After reading
these essays, you won’t be surprised that Chelsea became a comedian.
With her penchant for spinning outrageous lies, it was either that
or become a criminal. None of her family members or friends escape
her sharp tongue and sarcastic view of life’s events. You'll likely
recognize someone from your own past or present in her colorful collection
of characters. And no doubt you'll laugh out loud. If you're looking
for a quick read to pass an amusing afternoon, Are You There,
Vodka? is a good contender.
Recommended September 2009
|Shulman, Martha Rose and The Culinary Institute of America
Culinary Boot Camp: Five Days of Basic Training at the Culinary Institute of America
|If you’ve ever dreamed of going to culinary school, but
reality got in the way, one answer might be to attend a CIA Boot Camp.
These sessions introduce food enthusiasts to basic cooking techniques,
combined with fine dining at award-winning campus restaurants. Part
cookbook, part memoir, part campus restaurant review, Culinary
Boot Camp is the result of the author’s attendance at two such
camps. I enjoyed reading about the personalities and quirks of the
chef instructors, as well as their sometimes contrasting procedures
for creating the same dish. Recipes for most of the menus created
in the author’s camps are included. But the real heart of this book
is the explanation and understanding of primary cooking methods: simmering,
braising, poaching, roasting, frying, searing, etc. Each technique
is covered fully, in language familiar to non-chefs – no exclusive
techie terms here. The lesson is that good food doesn’t have to be
fancy, even when coming from one of the premier cooking schools in
the world. Inspired by a short paragraph on how the author’s group
prepared scallop appetizer, using the same simple technique, I pan
fried scallops in butter for only minutes on either side. They were,
in my husband’s opinion, the best scallops he'd ever had. You can
never beat easy and delicious!
Recommended August 2009