Review: It’s Messy, by Amanda de Cadenet

About the book, It’s Messy Its-Messy-cover

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (September 19, 2017)

In this deeply personal collection of essays, creator of the The Conversation Amanda de Cadenet shares the hard-won advice and practical insights she’s gained through her experiences as businesswoman, friend, wife, and mother.

Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story.

From childhood fame to a high-profile marriage (and divorce) to teen motherhood to the sexism that threatened to end her career before it started, Amanda shares the good, the bad, and the messy of her life, synthesizing lessons she’s learned along the way. Through it all, she offers an original perspective as a feminist on the front lines of celebrity culture. Edgy, irreverent, poignant and provocative, It’s Messy addresses the issues, concerns, and experiences relevant to women today.

Buy, read, and discuss It’s Messy:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Amanda de Cadenet

Amanda-de-Cadenet-APAmanda de Cadenet is a creative force with a lifelong career in the media. She began as a host on British television at the age of fifteen and became a sought-after photographer shortly after—as a result her impressive photography career already spans nearly twenty years. She is the youngest woman ever to shoot a Vogue cover and has photographed many of the most influential figures in popular and political culture. As a media entrepreneur, Amanda is the creator of The Conversation, a series that showcases her in-depth interviews on real topics with celebrated women. Whether it’s in conversations with Lady Gaga, Sarah Silverman, Zoe Saldana, Chelsea Handler, or Gwyneth Paltrow, or in discussions with devoted followers of her social channels, Amanda delivers an honest and authentic voice. The series has aired in eighteen countries and is featured online, with over ten million viewers. In January 2016, Amanda conducted an exclusive one-on-one interview with presidential candidate Secretary Clinton. In February 2016, Amanda launched #Girlgaze, a digital media company utilizing user submitted content and highlighting the work of  Gen Z women photographers and directors.

Connect with Amanda:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I love collections of essays and short stories. You can pick them up and put them down, start from random points, if you’re of a mind to, and leave them in the bathroom for a week, to be read when you’re pretty much a captive audience. When such a collection is good, it hooks you, makes you think, makes you want to phone the author and gush over her words.

It’s Messy was good  – in that way – for me.

The author, Amanda de Cadenet is, like me, a solid GenXer. Okay, she’s British and comes from a famous family, and we had radically different lives, but she has a sensibility I really responded to – to the point where I was following my husband around our house reading bits of her essays out loud.

Here’s what I loved about It’s Messy: It’s candid – it’s candid in the kind of way I wish I was comfortable being. It’s not ha-ha funny, but there’s a wry undertone that runs through even the most poignant of pieces. I responded to that very strongly. And mostly – it’s universal. Sure, the details are specific to the author, but the emotional truths she shares, the life lessons she relates  – those apply to all of us.

I also liked – and this may seem a small thing, but in an age when we are just learning about intersectionality, it’s important – in her introduction she referred to “anyone who identifies as female.” As an ally, that phrase sold me on the entire book.

And, let me be clear, It’s Messy: Essays on Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women, is a great book. I laughed, I cried, I felt like I’d been having a two hundred-ish-page-long conversation with a dear friend, the kind who is insightful and blunt, but also caring.

Because people always want to know what our favorites are, I will call out two of the essays as things I responded to particularly. The first is “Life According to Little Amanda” which is sort of a bio, but a little bit deeper, and slightly less linear. While I’ve never sat down next to a member of Duran Duran and ended up dating him, or spend time in juvie, I know what it is to feel out of place, or like regular life just isn’t working.

The second which I particularly enjoyed despite the fact that I’m not a parent, is “How to Parent in the Time of Trump,” because it’s so very important that we nurture our younger generation but that we’re also honest with them. Many of my friends have kids who are asking the same sorts of questions Amanda’s kids are asking, and I feel like I should make copies of this essay and share it with all of them.

Naah… they all just need the whole book.

Goes well with a tall glass of milk (or your favorite milk-alternative) and a slice of leftover birthday cake.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, August 22nd: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, August 23rd: Lit and Life

Thursday, August 24th: A Bookish Way of Life

Monday, August 28th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, August 29th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, August 30th: Comfy Reading

Thursday, August 31st: Book Hooked Blog

Friday, September 1st: The Geeky Bibliophile

Tuesday, September 5th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, September 6th: Wining Wife

Thursday, September 7th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Friday, September 8th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Monday, September 11th: Literary Quicksand

TBD: Books & Tea

Review: My Glory Was I have Such Friends, by Amy Silverstein – with Giveaway

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends About the book, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (June 27, 2017)

In this moving memoir about the power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit, Amy Silverstein tells the story of the extraordinary group of women who supported her as she waited on the precipice for a life-saving heart transplant.

Nearly twenty-six years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart plummeted into failure. If she wanted to live, she had to take on the grueling quest for a new heart—immediately.

A shot at survival meant uprooting her life and moving across the country to California. When her friends heard of her plans, there was only one reaction: “I’m there.” Nine remarkable women—Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann, and Jane—put demanding jobs and pressing family obligations on hold to fly across the country and be by Amy’s side. Creating a calendar spreadsheet, the women—some of them strangers to one another—passed the baton of friendship, one to the next, and headed straight and strong into the battle to help save Amy’s life.

Empowered by the kind of empathy that can only grow with age, these women, each knowing Amy from different stages of her life, banded together to provide her with something that medicine alone could not.  Sleeping on a cot beside her bed, they rubbed her back and feet when the pain was unbearable, adorned her room with death-distracting decorations, and engaged in their “best talks ever.”  They saw the true measure of their friend’s strength, and they each responded in kind.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is a tribute to these women and the intense hours they spent together—hours of heightened emotion and self-awareness, where everything was laid bare. Candid and heartrending, this once-in-a-lifetime story of connection and empathy is a powerful reminder of the ultimate importance of “showing up” for those we love.

Buy, read, and discuss, My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes &  Noble | Goodreads


Amy Silverstein AP Photo by Deborah FeingoldAbout the author, Amy Silverstein

Amy Silverstein is the author of Sick Girl, which won a “Books for a Better Life Award” and was a finalist for the Border’s Original Voices Award. She earned her Juris Doctor at New York University School of Law, has served on the Board of the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), and is an active speaker and writer on women’s health issues and patient advocacy. She lives in New York.

Connect with Amy:

Website | Facebook


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Memoirs are always tricky things to review, at least for me, because it feels a little like you’re judging the author’s life, rather than their writing and storytelling skills. In the case of My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, though, I had to keep reminding myself that this is a memoir, because the writing is so tight, the voice so consistent, and the storytelling so well-paced that it reads like a novel.

Silverstein is candid in telling her story. I haven’t read her previous book, Sick Girl, but I’m guessing her tone was similar in that: upbeat, despite the description of sometimes-grim events, a little bit snarky, a little bit self-deprecating, a lot poignant…

What really struck me, though, is that Silverstein’s book is full of joy.

Obviously when writing a story about life-threatening heart issues and the race between remaining beats in your existing heart and time to be hooked up with a new organ ready for transplant, you’re going to be joyful just for having survived it (spoiler: she lived, and wrote this book). But the sense of joy I felt while reading this was more than that. It was the sense that every friend mentioned in this memoir, these women (including one actually called Joy) who took chunks of their lives to support the author through a harrowing experience, both gave Amy strength and comfort, but also received the same.

It is my hope that most of us will never have to get so close to a ‘premature’ death that we’re not just looking it in the eye, but smelling its foul breath (seriously, does death floss?) , but if we do, we should all be so lucky as to have friends like Amy’s, and like Amy herself, because it’s clear from this memoir that her friendships go both ways.

Goes well with banana pudding with ‘nilla wafers.


My Glory Was I Had Such Friends Giveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Thursday, July 20th. Winner will be notified by email.


TLC Book ToursTour Stops

Tuesday, June 27th: Leigh Kramer

Wednesday, June 28th: Becklist

Thursday, June 29th: Tina Says…

Friday, June 30th: Openly Bookish

Monday, July 3rd: StephTheBookworm

Tuesday, July 4th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 5th: BookNAround

Thursday, July 6th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 10th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 11th: Literary Quicksand

Wednesday, July 12th: The Desert Bibliophile

Thursday, July 13th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, July 17th: She’s All Booked

Tuesday, July 18th: Everyone Needs Therapy

Wednesday, July 19th: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, July 20th: Wining Wife

Review: All Our Waves Are Water, by Jamail Yogis – with Giveaway

All Our Waves Are Water coverAbout the book All Our Waves Are Water

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave (July 4, 2017)

In this meditative memoir—a compelling fusion of Barbarian Days and the journals of Thomas Merton—the author of Saltwater Buddha reflects on his “failing toward enlightenment,” his continued search to find meaning and a greater understanding of the Divine in the world’s oceans as well as everyday life.

For Jaimal Yogis, the path to enlightenment is surfing. Between water and air, between control and surrender, between the tangible and intangible realities of life, the spiritual can be found. Born to a family of seekers, he left home at sixteen to surf in Hawaii and join a monastery—an adventure he chronicled in Saltwater Buddha. Now, in his early twenties, his heart is broken and he’s lost his way. Hitting the road again, he lands in a monastery in Dharamsala, where he meets Sonam, a displaced Tibetan.

To help his friend, Jaimal makes a cockamamie attempt to reunite him with his family in Tibet by way of America. Though he does not succeed, witnessing Sonam’s indomitable spirit in the face of failure offers Jaimal a deeper understanding of faith. When the two friends part, he cannot fathom the unlikely circumstances that will reunite them.

All Our Waves Are Water follows Jaimal’s trek from the Himalayas to Indonesia; to a Franciscan Friary in New York City to the dusty streets of Jerusalem; and finally to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. Along his journey, Jaimal prays and surfs; mourning a lost love and seeking something that keeps eluding him, until he ultimately finds what he’s been looking for—that the perfect ride may well be the one we are on right now.

The poet Rumi wrote, “we are not a drop in the ocean. We are the ocean in a drop.” All Our Waves Are Water is Jaimal’s “attempt to understand the ocean in a drop, to find that one moon shining in the water everywhere”—to find the Divine that unites us all.

Buy, read, and discuss All Our Waves Are Water:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Jaimal Yogis AP Photo by Peter DawsonAbout the author, Jaimal Yogis

Jaimal Yogis is an award-winning writer, outdoorsman, and frequent teacher. He is the author of the memoir Saltwater Buddha, which has been made into a feature documentary film, and The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing, and Love.

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, he has written for ESPN: The Magazine, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, San Francisco magazine, Surfer’s Journal, and many other publications.He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and their three sons.

Connect with Jaimal:

Website | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

Defining Jaimal Yogis’ most recent book, All Our Waves Are Water, proved difficult for me. As I was describing the book to friends and family, I said, “well, it’s kind of a travel memoir, but it’s also about spirituality and physics  and neuroscience and surfing.” The truth is, that book is all of those things, but it’s also the perfect example of a finished product, a whole work, being much greater than the sum of its parts, because it’s also about creativity, finding your own path, and practicing self-care.

I don’t surf (I swim recreationally), but I eagerly read about surfing, because I share that connection to the water. That’s what initially drew me to this book, but all too quickly I found myself sharing bits of it that resonated with me with my husband, my friends, and my social media followers. I even tweeted the author as I was beginning to read it, sharing that I was hooked from the first page. (He was very kind in his response.)

I love it when a book grabs me like this, when it makes me think, examine, ponder, and then – because it’s the way I’m wired – pick up a notebook and pen and write something of my own. The first passage I quoted at people, I actually turned into a jpeg so I could put it on Instagram, with credit of course:

“The paths are simply fingers pointing at the moon, rafts across the ocean of suffering, different strokes for different folks. Or to use my favorite metaphor, the paths – like all things subject to birth and death – are waves.”

“God is the sea.”

And it went on from there.

Yogis’ writing is sophisticated, but still accessible. He’s sometimes funny, but his humor is the organic kind that is inspired by ordinary life. He’s candid, but never treads into TMI territory, and when he does discuss deeper subjects he does so in a way that is both informative and insightful. He never panders, but assumes that his audience can keep up with the shifts between tone and topic.

If you’re looking for a smarmy attempt to convince you to learn surfing and take up meditation – you won’t find it in All Our Waves are Water.

But… if you want to spend a few hours feeling like you’re having a conversation with a man who’s sharing some of his own experiences and life-lessons, you should read this book. No, you should devour it – absorb it the way I did.

Goes well with a mug of hot coffee and fresh scones, preferably enjoyed on a chilly coastal morning, while gazing at the ocean.


All Our Waves Are Water coverGiveaway

One lucky reader in the US can get a copy of this book. How? Leave a comment on this post (make sure you put a valid email in the box for it) telling me about your best friend. (You can also find my tweet about this post, and retweet it for a second entry – I’m @melysse.)

Deadline is 11:59 PM CDT on Friday, August 4th. Winner will be notified by email.


Tour StopsTLC Book Tours

Tuesday, July 4th: Bibliotica

Monday, July 17th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Tuesday, July 18th: Openly Bookish

Thursday, July 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Monday, July 24th: Toning the OM

Thursday, August 3rd: The Desert Bibliophile

Friday, August 4th: Everyone Needs Therapy

TBD: Jathan & Heather

TBD: Breezes at Dawn

TBD: Girl in a Boy House

Review: Breakfast in Texas, by Terry Thompson-Anderson

Breakfast in Texas Blog Tour

Scroll down for Giveaway information!

About the book, Breakfast in Texas Breakfast in Texas

  • Genre: Cookbook / Southwest Cuisine
  • Publisher: The University of Texas Press
  • Date of Publication: April 18, 2017
  • Number of Pages: 312

Texans love the morning meal, whether it’s bacon and eggs (often eaten in a breakfast taco) or something as distinctively nontraditional as saag paneer omelets, pon haus, or goat curry. A Lone Star breakfast can be a time for eating healthy, or for indulging in decadent food and drink. And with Texas’s rich regional and cultural diversity, an amazing variety of dishes graces the state’s breakfast and brunch tables. The first Texas cookbook dedicated exclusively to the morning meal, Breakfast in Texas gathers nearly one hundred recipes that range from perfectly prepared classics to the breakfast foods of our regional cuisines (Southern, Mexican, German, Czech, Indian, and Asian among them) to stand-out dishes from the state’s established and rising chefs and restaurants.

Terry Thompson-Anderson organizes the book into sections that cover breakfast and brunch libations (with and without alcohol); simple, classic, and fancy egg presentations; pancakes, French toast, and waffles; meat lover’s dishes; seafood and shellfish; vegan dishes and sides; and pastries. The recipes reference locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and Thompson-Anderson provides enjoyable notes about the chefs who created them or the cultural history they represent. She also offers an expert primer on cooking eggs, featuring an encounter with Julia Child, as well as a selection of theme brunches (the boozy brunch, the make-ahead brunch, New Year’s Day brunch, Mother’s Day brunch with seasonal ingredients, teenage daughter’s post-slumber party breakfast, and more). Sandy Wilson’s color photographs of many of the dishes and the chefs and restaurants who serve them provide a lovely visual counterpoint to the appetizing text.

Buy, read, and discuss Breakfast in Texas:

University of Texas Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Terry Thompson-Anderson Terry Thompson-Anderson

Terry Thompson-Anderson is the author of nine previous cookbooks, including Texas on the Table: People, Places, and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State, which was a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Book Award for American Cooking.

Connect with the University of Texas Press:

Connect with The University of Texas Press:

WebsiteFacebook  | Twitter  | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m a bit of a foodie, and breakfast and brunch are my favorite meals, so when I was offered the opportunity to review a cookbook that was all about breakfast food, you can bet I jumped at the chance.

Subtitled “Recipes for Elegant Brunches, Down Home Classics, and Local Favorites,” this book, Breakfast in Texas is a treasure trove of recipes and commentary. In reviewing this book, I picked one recipe that I thought everyone in my house would eat, and would also teach me a new skill. I ended up making the Egg Breakfast Casserole from the A Place in Time Bed and Breakfast in Fredericksburg, where I’ve never been, but have a sudden yearning to go.

It’s a fairly basic sausage, mushroom, egg and cheese casserole, but the spin that makes it special is that you make your own whole-milk ricotta to go in it. Now, while I currently live near Dallas, I come from a New Jersey Neapolitan family, so the ricotta I grew up with is not from whole cow’s milk, it’s whey-based ricotta, usually made with goat or sheep milk. But the commercial ricotta most of us buy from the store is whole cow’s milk ricotta, so if you aren’t in the mood (or not great at planning far enough ahead) to make your own, you can use store-bought and no one will know.

Author Terry Thompson-Anderson doesn’t go into the chemistry of curdling milk to make ricotta but her instructions are simple, and the end result was a good deal creamier than what you can find at the store.

Similarly, the rest of the book is full of interesting twists on basic ideas, as well as elaborate suggestions for fancier menus. One thing I really appreciated was the first chapter, which was all about “libations.” I’ve recently been re-introduced to that old-school brunch favorite, the Bloody Mary, so you can imagine my glee to learn about breakfast cocktails featuring, not tequila or vodka, but legal Texas Moonshine.

I never even knew that was a thing!

Of course, one of the bonuses of any cookbook is the art, and Breakfast in Texas does not disappoint. Sandy Wilson’s photographs are worthy of being framed, and give a good idea of what finished dishes should look like.

At 312 pages, this cookbook is pretty hefty – you’ll want one of those plastic cookbook protector-stands to keep it upright and clean while you use it – but I promise you, whether you want to create an intimate breakfast for yourself and your romantic partner, or host a brunch for fifteen, there is something in this book that will intrigue, inspire, and entice you into the kitchen.

Goes well with coffee, and a pen and notepad for meal planning and making a grocery list.


Giveaway

The publishers of this book are hosting a giveaway. To enter, click the image below, or follow the text link below the image.

Breakfast in Texas Giveaway

Click to enter!!!

This giveaway is open until June 13th.


Breakfast in Texas Tour Stops Lone Star Literary Life

5/30 Promo Hall Ways Blog
5/31 Review StoreyBook Reviews
6/01 Sneak Peek 1 Momma On The Rocks
6/02 Review Books in the Garden
6/03 Book Trailer 1 My Book Fix Blog
6/04 Promo Syd Savvy
6/05 Review Bibliotica
6/06 Book Trailer 2 Texas Book Lover
6/07 Review Chapter Break Book Blog
6/08 Sneak Peek 2 Forgotten Winds
6/09 Excerpt Missus Gonzo
6/10 Review Books and Broomsticks
6/11 Promo The Page Unbound
6/12 Author Interview CGB Blog Tours
6/13 Review Reading By Moonlight

Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Review: The View from the Cheap Seats, by Neil Gaiman

About the book, The View From the Cheap Seats The View from the Cheap Seats

• Paperback: 544 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 16, 2017)

The New York Times bestselling non-fiction collection, now in paperback, from the author of American Gods, now a STARZ Original Series.

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

Buy, read, and discuss The View from the Cheap Seats:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Neil Gaiman Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newberry and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Connect with Neil:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

With the exception of American Gods (I’m apparently the only person on the planet who didn’t like it, but I recognize that it may have come into my life at a bad time, and I’ll eventually give it another chance) I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, so when I was offered the opportunity to review some of his non-fiction, I went over the wall and into the ocean (metaphorically) and ended up wishing I was young enough to be a Bard student so I could take this man’s class.

I was hooked on this collection from the moment I opened the book and read his preface (introduction, whatever – I don’t have the book in front of me because a friend pulled it out of my hands the second I declared “FINISHED!”), and while not every piece resonated with me the same way, I found myself entranced, intrigued, provoked, amused, moved, and amazed, sometimes alternately, sometimes all at once.

I tend to read books of essays and short stories in chunks. I keep them in the bathroom, either in a basket near the toilet (oh, come on, we all read there) or on the side of the tub and pick them up whenever I’m in the appropriate place. I don’t pick and choose the order, though sometimes I’m tempted by a title.

That opening piece, “Some Things I Believe,” is something I’ll re-read, likely often. The section on comic books (and comic book shops, and comic book artists’ influence on Gaiman) is something I appreciated as a casual comic book reader, but I know my husband and the friend who stole my book will love a lot.

The section about film was incredibly informative, but there are also essays devoted to ghosts, music, and even one on the political/cultural situation in Syria.

Reading this book felt like a conversation with an old friend, the kind that rambles from topic to topic, touching on recurring themes, offering new insights, and involves each of you making lists of Books You Must Read and Music You Must Hear.

It’s fitting, then, that Gaiman himself wrote, “Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation, and new people, new readers, need to be brought into the conversation too.”

This book, The View from the Cheap Seats, is that conversation. Or at least, it’s an overture to starting it.

Goes well with Earl Grey tea and raspberry crumble.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 16th: G. Jacks Writes

Wednesday, May 17th: Vox Libris

Thursday, May 18th: Based on a True Story

Friday, May 19th: A Splendidly Messy Life

Monday, May 22nd: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Tuesday, May 23rd: Sapphire Ng

Wednesday, May 24th: Book Snob

Wednesday, May 24th: Man of La Book

Thursday, May 25th: guiltless reading

Friday, May 26th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, May 30th: In Bed with Books

Wednesday, May 31st: Real Life Reading

Thursday, June 1st: From the TBR Pile

Thursday, June 1st: Bibliotica

Friday, June 2nd: Bibliophiliac

 

 

Review: Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook, by Amy Zerner and Monte Farber with Chef John Okas

About the book, Signs & Seasons Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook

• Hardcover: 272 pages
• Publisher: HarperElixir (May 2, 2017)

Discover how to eat for your sign and nourish your soul in Signs and Seasons, the one-of-a-kind cookbook that pairs chef-driven seasonal recipes with deep insight into how astrology shapes our appetites, from iconic astrologer Monte Farber and artist Amy Zerner.

Food connects us to our families, history, culture, and to the natural world itself—to the seasons and the cycle of life. Just as our path around the sun—and through the Zodiac—dictates the seasons, the seasons dictate what will flourish, from the tender greens of early spring to late summer’s lush and impossible perfect tomatoes.

In Signs and Seasons, Farber and Zerner—along with chef John Okas—take home cooks through the four seasons and each of their astrological signs in over 95 tantalizing seasonal recipes that include starters; meat, seafood, and vegetarian mains; sides; and desserts for each sign.

Inspired by the cuisine of the Mediterranean, home of the Greco-Roman cultures that named the planets after their gods, Signs and Seasons teaches you how to:

·         Feed friends and loved ones based on their signs and the season

·         Deepen your understanding of Nature and the Universe

·         Discover how astrology shapes our personalities, tastes, and appetites

Whether exploring the “Twin nature” and “Mercurial spirit” of ramps (a spring delicacy well suited Geminis) in a recipe for Ramps al Olio or the historical association of saffron with Venus in the recipe for Roasted Corn Orecchiette, Signs and Seasons is the perfect guide for eating in a way that emphasizes both sensual nourishment and psychic satisfaction. Beautifully photographed in full color by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, Signs and Seasons is a one-of-a-kind source of inspiration for astrology enthusiasts and home chefs alike.

Buy, read, and discuss Signs & Seasons:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the Authors Amy Zerner & Monte Farber and Chef John Okas

Since 1988, AMY ZERNER, a U.S. National Endowment for the Arts award-winning fine artist, and her husband, author MONTE FARBER, have created what they call their family of “spiritual power tools,” including The Enchanted Tarot, Instant Tarot, Sun Sign Secrets, Karma Cards, Little Reminders: The Law of Attraction Deck, Chakra Meditation Kit, The Truth Fairy Pendulum Kit, The Soulmate Path and Quantum Affirmations. There are over two million copies of their works in print in sixteen languages. The couple lives in East Hampton, NY. They believe that adding love, light, and laughter to everything one cooks is essential to creating great meals and a great life.  More at www.theenchantedworld.net.

CHEF JOHN OKAS began his career in childhood, cooking alongside his Sicilian grandmother in their family kitchen. He has cooked at Paradox in Manhattan, Georgette’s in Easthampton, and the Captiva Inn in Florida. Under the pen name John Penza, he is the author of Sicilian-American Pasta and Sicilian Vegetarian Cooking. He currently lives in Bridgehampton, New York, where he is a personal chef and is also associated with the Highway Restaurant.


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I don’t really believe in astrology except as a form of entertainment, but I love to cook, and I was curious about this book would work, so I asked to review it.

I was pleasantly surprised by the actual book.

First, it’s gorgeous. There are great pictures of the recipes included, the paper is good quality, and each section (beginning with Spring) is laid out with a table of contents divided by type (starters, salads pasta, seafood, meat, vegetarian, sides, and desserts), each labeled with the sign that is most likely to be represented by each dish. (I take issue with a watermelon dish being assigned to Leo only because I’m allergic to watermelon.)

Then, it’s well-written. It has a pleasantly spiritual tone, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a section before the actual recipes that gives a breakdown of how each sign likes to cook, eat, and entertain. I read it out loud to my husband and a couple of friends and we all nodded and smiled (and sometimes grimaced) and admitted it was fairly accurate.

But of course, the real interest any of us have in a cookbook is the food, and this cookbook did not disappoint. While I did not have time to try every recipe, I’ve read through many, and marked them for future meals (there’s a red snapper dish I’m dying to try – this Leo is half mermaid and likes meat and fish in equal measure).

I’m an intuitive cook who thinks of cooking as “kitchen improv” and recipes as mere guidelines, and I love that these recipes are designed to give you a foolproof result if you follow them to the letter, but also serve as excellent jumping-off points.

Even though it’s not yet summer, I live in Texas, so I skipped ahead and made the Frittata Caprese, which everyone loved but I also had great success with a Spring selection: Couscous & Cracked Wheat Tabbouleh. I’ve only ever used the Near East boxed tabbouleh, or ordered it at restaurants so making my own – and loving it – was a pleasure and a thrill.

Whether or not you believe in astrology, if you’re a home cook looking for inspiration, I recommend Signs & Seasons. The recipes are fairly healthy (most of the desserts include fruit) and reasonably easy to prepare.

Your family and friends will thank you.

(And if you’re a Leo, like me, they’ll give you the applause you rightfully expect.)


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, May 2nd: Sara the Introvert

Tuesday, May 2nd: I Brought a Book

Wednesday, May 3rd: Wining Wife

Thursday, May 4th: Stranded in Chaos

Friday, May 5th: Bibliotica

Monday, May 8th: Mother’s Kitchen

Tuesday, May 9th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, May 10th: Becklist

Thursday, May 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, May 15th: Dwell in Possibility

Tuesday, May 16th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, May 18th: Unabridged Chick

Monday, May 22nd: A Chick Who Reads

Tuesday, May 23rd: The Cactus Chronicles

Wednesday, May 24th: Books & Tea

Thursday, May 25th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Tuesday, May 30th: Kahakai Kitchen

Review: Return to Glow, by Chandi Wyant

About the book, Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy

 

  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Chandi Wyant (March 30, 2017)

In her early forties, Chandi Wyant’s world implodes in the wake of a divorce and traumatic illness. Determined to embrace life by following her heart, she sets out on Italy’s historic pilgrimage route, the Via Francigena, to walk for forty days to Rome.

Weakened by her recent illness, she walks over the Apennines, through the valleys of Tuscany, and beside busy highways on her 425-kilometer trek equipped with a nineteen-pound pack, two journals, and three pens.

Return to Glow chronicles this journey that is both profoundly spiritual and ruggedly adventuresome. As Chandi traverses this ancient pilgrim’s route, she rediscovers awe in the splendor of the Italian countryside and finds sustenance and comfort from surprising sources. Drawing on her profession as a college history instructor, she gracefully weaves in relevant anecdotes, melding past and present in this odyssey toward her soul.

This delightful, transporting tale awakens the senses while inviting readers to discover their own inner glow by letting go of fixed expectations, choosing courage over comfort, and following their heart.

Buy, read, and discuss Return to Glow:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Chandi Wyant Chandi Wyant

A world traveler, photographer, writer and historian, Chandi Wyant has lived in Qatar, India, Italy, Switzerland and England, and has been returning to Italy with unremitting passion since she first lived there at age twenty. She holds a Masters degree in Florentine Renaissance history and is the former head of Sogni Italiani, an events planning firm specializing in weddings, vow renewals, and honeymoons in Italy.  The manuscript of her memoir, Return to Glow (2017), won third place in the 2015 National Association of Memoir contest.

When she’s not dreaming in Italian, she can be found teaching history and writing about travel for the Huffington Post and her blog, Paradise of Exiles.

Connect with Chandi:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

If you came across Chandi Wyant’s fascinating memoir Return to Glow: A Pilgrimage of Transformation in Italy, you might note the athletic-looking blonde woman on the cover and think, “Oh, this is a rip-off of Wild,” and pass it by.

You would be missing out on a story that shares the barest of similarities with that oh-so-famous book – “woman heals herself emotionally and spiritually by taking a long hike”  – but is absolutely original. Even more, I found this book to be highly engaging, and really uplifting, though, forgive me, I will remain an armchair hiker.

When we first meet Chandi, she is recovering from the emergency appendectomy she had to undergo while on vacation in Italy, a relatively routine surgery that was complicated by sepsis. Back in the states, still healing physically, Chandi is also in the midst of a divorce, and is re-evaluating her life.

A variety of factors, including the sometimes bone-deep chill of Boulder, CO, during a damp winter, sends Chandi on her new mission: she will walk across Italy. Research is begun  – are there trails? Are there convenient stops on the most promising route? Finally something connects: Chandi will hike the Via Francigena – the road that connects Canterbury to Rome.

Of course, Wyant’s route doesn’t actually start in England, but at the Italian border – a 40-day hike on this ancient trail, sometimes in solitude, sometimes running into strangers and sharing their stories. There’s time in a convent, and time on the open trail, and the entire story meshes beautifully as the author’s hike leads her, not just to one of the world’s most famous cities, but back to her best self, back to her glow.

In some ways, each chapter of this book felt like a separate essay, but there was still connection. Part travelogue, part memoir, I found Wyant’s writing style to be intimate and conversational, her descriptions as vivid as the photos she takes.

If you read only one “personal transformation” memoir this year, make it Return to Glow. After reading it, I felt closer to my own glow, even without the physical pilgrimage.

Goes well with roasted chicken and vegetables and a glass of wine.

 

 

Review: Unbound, by Steph Jagger

About the book, Unbound Unbound

• Hardcover: 304 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (January 24, 2017)

A young woman follows winter across five continents on a physical and spiritual journey that tests her body and soul, in this transformative memoir, full of heart and courage, that speaks to the adventurousness in all of us.

Steph Jagger had always been a force of nature. Dissatisfied with the passive, limited roles she saw for women growing up, she emulated the men in her life—chasing success, climbing the corporate ladder, ticking the boxes, playing by the rules of a masculine ideal. She was accomplished. She was living “The Dream.” But it wasn’t her dream.

Then the universe caught her attention with a sign: Raise Restraining Device. Steph had seen this ski lift sign on countless occasions in the past, but the familiar words suddenly became a personal call to shake off the life she had built in a search for something different, something more.

Steph soon decided to walk away from the success and security she had worked long and hard to obtain. She quit her job, took a second mortgage on her house, sold everything except her ski equipment and her laptop, and bought a bundle of plane tickets. For the next year, she followed winter across North and South America, Asia, Europe, and New Zealand—and up and down the mountains of nine countries—on a mission to ski four million vertical feet in a year.

What hiking was for Cheryl Strayed, skiing became for Steph: a crucible in which to crack open her life and get to the very center of herself. But she would have to break herself down—first physically, then emotionally—before she could start to rebuild. And it was through this journey that she came to understand how to be a woman, how to love, and how to live authentically.

Electrifying, heartfelt, and full of humor, Unbound is Steph’s story—an odyssey of courage and self-discovery that, like Wild and Eat, Pray, Love, will inspire readers to remove their own restraining devices and pursue the life they are meant to lead.

Buy, read, and discuss Unbound:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Steph Jagger Steph Jagger

Steph Jagger splits her time between Southern California and British Columbia where she dreams big dreams, writes her heart out, and runs an executive & life coaching practice. She holds a CEC (certified Executive Coach) degree from Royal Roads University and she believes courageous living doesn’t happen with one toe dangling in, but that we jump in, fully submerge, and sit in the juice. Think pickle, not cucumber.

Connect with Steph:

Website | Instagram


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I’m not an athlete, and when I play tourist it’s almost always to cities and towns known for art and culture and amazing food. I don’t do rural. I don’t camp. I don’t even like movies where the people are cold, tired, hungry, dirty, or lacking toilet paper for too long. I lived in Colorado for seven years as a kid and never learned to ski (but I was a pretty decent recreational ice skater). My idea of ‘roughing it’ used to be a hotel without room service; now it’s a hotel without wifi. And it’s good that I know this about myself because it keeps me from trying crazy things that would only leave me, and anyone traveling with me, feeling utterly miserable.

Nevertheless, I’m intrigued by stories of people – especially women – who undertake such feats as solo circumnavigations in sailboats (Tania Aebi) or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (Cheryl Strayed), so when I was offered a chance to read and review Unbound, I jumped at the chance, and spent a weekend fully submerged in this memoir of author Steph Jagger’s attempt to ski around the world.

Her writing style is almost conversational, and I really enjoyed that about this book. She isn’t afraid of coarse language, but uses it where it’s appropriate, something I always find really refreshing. She’s also incredibly candid – how many people do you know who would open a memoir with a scene involving puking and raw self-analysis?

As I read Unbound I found that even though the author and I are radically different people, and choose to define success in vastly different ways, I still learned a lot about determinaton, self-reliance, and how each of us must be willing to do the hard work of looking at our worst selves, and using that information to build and become our best.

Oh, and the parts about actual skiing were also great to read, and made me almost – almost – miss winter.

Goes well with: grilled cheese, tomato soup, and Sam Adams Winter Lager.


Tour Stops for Unbound TLC Book Tours - Unbound

Wednesday, January 25th: Cait’s Cozy Corner

Tuesday, January 31st: Jathan & Heather

Thursday, February 2nd: She’s Got Books On Her Mind

Monday, February 6th: Wining Wife

Tuesday, February 7th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, February 8th: Dwell in Possibility

Sunday, February 12th: Readaholic Zone

Tuesday, February 14th: Tina Says…

Wednesday, February 15th: Writing and Running Through Life

Thursday, February 16th: Eliot’s Eats

Monday, February 20th: Book Dilettante

Friday, February 24th: Sara the Introvert

Monday, February 27th: Read Till Dawn

Review: Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

About the book,  Hidden Figures Hidden Figures

• Paperback: 368 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (December 6, 2016)

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Buy, read, and discuss Hidden Figures

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author Margot Lee Shetterly Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she knew many of the women in Hidden Figures. She is an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow and the recipient of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant for her research on women in computing. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Connect with Margot

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts: Melissa A. Bartell

I love biographies, in print and on screen, and I’m a big space nut. Until recently, my favorite space book was A Man on the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin, and its accompanying miniseries From the Earth to the Moon (1995, HBO), but after reading Hidden Figures that book has been edged into second place.

This book biography, it’s history – herstory – it’s about culture and society and the way white and black America are still incredibly different even though they have many similarities, but it’s also a story about math and physics, and how those things help us to create our dreams.

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden were mathematicians in the early days of NASA’s space program. Without them, John Glenn would never have successfully orbited Earth, and Apollo 13 would never have come home, but those are only two big events in a series of many, many smaller events.

In that first book I read, years ago, there’s an explanation of what it takes to accomplish docking two craft (the orbiter and the LEM) in space. In the HBO miniseries, it’s dramatized by a scene in which one man says to each other, “Okay, you stand in my front yard, and I’ll stand in the back, and I’m going to throw this basketball over the roof and you’re gonna try to hit it with this baseball as it crests.” (I might be paraphrasing, but that’s the gist of the conversation.”

These women, Dorothy, Mary, Katherine and Christine, did the math to make that work.

But they weren’t mere math geeks. And this book shows that. It shows that they had lives and homes and families, and all of the usual conflicts that working woman have when choosing between career and family. It shows their similarities, and their differences, and it does it in a way that – even at it’s ‘mathiest’ – is never boring, never dry.

Hidden Figures is a must-read for women and girls who are in, or interested in, STEM fields, yes, but I’d recommend it to space nuts like me, to feminists, to people who want a better understanding of the civil rights movement, and to people who just enjoy reading biographies, because it’s well crafted, compelling, and so, so human.

There’s a movie based on this book that is opening in select theaters on Christmas Day, and nationwide in January. Read the book before you see the movie.

Trust me on this.

Goes well with massive amounts of coffee and egg salad sandwiches.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, December 6th: Broken Teepee

Wednesday, December 7th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Thursday, December 8th: Dwell in Possibility

Friday, December 9th: G. Jacks Writes

Monday, December 12th: Lit and Life

Tuesday, December 13th: As I turn the pages

Friday, December 16th: Art @ Home

Monday, December 19th: Leigh Kramer

Monday, December 19th: Reading Lark

Tuesday, December 20th: Emerald City Book Review

Tuesday, December 20th: Buried in Print

Wednesday, December 21st: Bibliotica

Thursday, December 22nd: Helen’s Book Blog

Friday, December 23rd: Based on a True Story

Review: Searching for John Hughes, by Jason Diamond

Searching for John HughesAbout the book,  Searching for John Hughes

• Paperback: 304 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (November 29, 2016)

For all fans of John Hughes and his hit films such as National Lampoon’s VacationSixteen Candles, and Home Alone, comes Jason Diamond’s hilarious memoir of growing up obsessed with the iconic filmmaker’s movies—a preoccupation that eventually convinces Diamond he should write Hughes’ biography and travel to New York City on a quest that is as funny as it is hopeless.

For as long as Jason Diamond can remember, he’s been infatuated with John Hughes’ movies. From the outrageous, raunchy antics in National Lampoon’s Vacation to the teenage angst in The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink to the insanely clever and unforgettable Home Alone, Jason could not get enough of Hughes’ films. And so the seed was planted in his mind that it should fall to him to write a biography of his favorite filmmaker. It didn’t matter to Jason that he had no qualifications, training, background, platform, or direction. Thus went the years-long, delusional, earnest, and assiduous quest to reach his goal. But no book came out of these years, and no book will. What he did get was a story that fills the pages of this unconventional, hilarious memoir.

In Searching for John Hughes, Jason tells how a Jewish kid from a broken home in a Chicago suburb—sometimes homeless, always restless—found comfort and connection in the likewise broken lives in the suburban Chicago of John Hughes’ oeuvre. He moved to New York to become a writer. He started to write a book he had no business writing. In the meantime, he brewed coffee and guarded cupcake cafes. All the while, he watched John Hughes movies religiously.

Though his original biography of Hughes has long since been abandoned, Jason has discovered he is a writer through and through. And the adversity of going for broke has now been transformed into wisdom. Or, at least, a really, really good story.

In other words, this is a memoir of growing up. One part big dream, one part big failure, one part John Hughes movies, one part Chicago, and one part New York. It’s a story of what comes after the “Go for it!” part of the command to young creatives to pursue their dreams—no matter how absurd they might seem at first.

Buy, read, and discuss this book

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jason Diamond Jason Diamond

Jason Diamond is the sports editor at RollingStone.com and founder of Vol. 1 Brooklyn. His work has been published by The New York TimesBuzzFeedVultureThe New RepublicThe Paris ReviewPitchforkEsquireVice and many other outlets. He was born in Skokie, Illinois, but currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, his two cats and his dog named Max.

Connect with Jason

Website | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Like the author of this memoir, Jason Diamond, I grew up on John Hughes movies. Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy were my virtual best friends when I was a teenager, and while I never lived in Chicago or New York, I completely understand the feeling that comes from seeing the place you live depicted in a movie (thank you Kevin Smith for making people aware that Highlands, NJ is a place).

I always feel a bit weird about reviewing memoirs, because I feel like I’m judging the person, and not their story. In this case, I really enjoyed the story – the journey that Jason took from cupcake bouncer to witty and read writer.

I also enjoyed Jason’s writing style. I was completely unfamiliar with his work before I read Searching for John Hughes, but his ‘voice’ is so engaging, with a good balance of wry wit, self-deprecation, and frank observation, that I’m eager to go find his stuff at Rolling Stone and read every word.

Ultimately, this is a memoir that will speak to anyone who is considering a major creative endeavor, who hates their current job and wants to find something fulfilling, or who grew up on movies like Pretty in Pink and wants to recapture the feeling of seeing those films for the first time.

It’s a compelling read, a fast read, and one I’m really glad I got to experience.

Goes well with a cupcake (but please, chocolate, not double vanilla) and a perfect cappuccino.


Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, November 30th: BookNAround

Thursday, December 1st: Book Chatter

Monday, December 5th: Helen’s Book Blog

Tuesday, December 6th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, December 7th: Cait’s Cozy Corner

Thursday, December 8th: Book by Book

Thursday, December 8th: Bibliotica

Monday, December 12th: Tina Says…

Tuesday, December 13th: Man of La Book

Wednesday, December 14th: 5 Minutes For Books

Thursday, December 15th: she treads softly