food · stuff I read

The Good Food: A Cookbook of Soups, Stews, and Pastas by Daniel Halpern and Julie Strand

39938179Summary from Goodreads:

An enduringly popular collection of beloved dishes from around the world featuring classic and easy-to-cook recipes

When it was first published in 1985, The Good Food was one of the first cookbooks devoted to the celebration of the best-loved and most satisfying essentials of casual cuisine and, more than thirty years later, it has remained a classic in its genre.

Drawing on the diverse cooking traditions of the Americas, Italy, France, India, Morocco, and the Middle East, Daniel Halpern and Julie Strand bring together almost two hundred recipes, including not only the quintessential examples of each cuisine, but also unusual dishes that provide surprising gastronomic rewards. The book features international staples such as Gazpacho and Jambalaya, as well as unexpected delights—Bobotie; Lamb Stew with Eggplant, Saffron, and Ginger; and Penne with Black Olive Puree and Ricotta.

The Good Food puts the emphasis where it belongs: on the pleasure of preparing—and eating—excellent and timeless dishes.

The Good Food is a new edition of the 1985 The Good Food cookbook and this is…fine. There are a lot of recipes and if you’re looking for a lot of basic meal and ingredient recipes like for stocks, etc. and plan out multi-course meals, this might work for you. But there’s a very Us (the people who do multi-course dinners and have high-end shopping options) vs Them (those of us in the populace who have one community grocery store, if that, and mostly have to feed only our selves or their family) tone to this cookbook. Right now, I really gravitate to cookbooks that have a personal, homey feel. The Good Food is not this (and there aren’t any pictures).

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.

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Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt (Greycourt #1)

38309947Summary from Goodreads:
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt brings us the first book in her sexy and sensual Greycourt Series!

Freya de Moray is many things: a member of the secret order of Wise Women, the daughter of disgraced nobility, and a chaperone living under an assumed name. What she is not is forgiving. So when the Duke of Harlowe, the man who destroyed her brother and led to the downfall of her family, appears at the country house party she’s attending, she does what any Wise Woman would do: she starts planning her revenge.

Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, is being blackmailed. Intent on keeping his secrets safe, he agrees to attend a house party where he will put an end to this coercion once and for all. Until he recognizes Freya, masquerading amongst the party revelers, and realizes his troubles have just begun. Freya knows all about his sins—sins he’d much rather forget. But she’s also fiery, bold, and sensuous—a temptation he can’t resist. When it becomes clear Freya is in grave danger, he’ll risk everything to keep her safe. But first, Harlowe will have to earn Freya’s trust-by whatever means necessary.

With the publication of the final book in her Maiden Lane series last year, I was wondering what Elizabeth Hoyt was going to do next. Maiden Lane started dark and got darker, ending with the destruction of a secret cult that prided itself on the degradation of women and children.

Not the Duke’s Darling is a solid, fast-moving start to Hoyt’s new series. This is an enemies-to-lovers-with-a-second-chance romance (one of my favorite tropes!) that also dabbles a bit in secret societies (although these two doesn’t go in for sex cults, thank goodness) that pits women and women’s knowledge against some wild-eyed witch-hunters. Hoyt starts off with a bang, almost literally, with an undercover Freya rescuing a small child from his nefarious uncle then off to a house-party to investigate the identity of a politician bent on restarting witchcraft trials. Along the way Freya comes across an old friend-now-nemesis the Duke of Harlow (Christopher), who is bent on stymieing a blackmailer and getting Freya to tell him what she’s up to (good luck with that). And then there’s a murder….

I quite liked Freya as a character but I also really liked how Hoyt dug into questions of how women were treated in marriage – legally – in the 18th century and how Christopher chooses to allow Freya to make up her own mind without getting overly possessive or seducing her into agreement. This not-quite-a-beta-male hero is a welcome relief to a sea of heroes who growl, stalk, and generally act overly possessive. I hope Hoyt gets a bit more into the Wise Women in future books of the series.

Plus there’s a cute dog, which is a bit of a requirement in a Hoyt novel anymore.

Not the Duke’s Darling is out today, wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

mini-review · stuff I read

Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood by Karina Longworth

38647394Summary from Goodreads:
In this riveting popular history, the creator of You Must Remember This probes the inner workings of Hollywood’s glamorous golden age through the stories of some of the dozens of actresses pursued by Howard Hughes, to reveal how the millionaire mogul’s obsessions with sex, power and publicity trapped, abused, or benefitted women who dreamt of screen stardom.

In recent months, the media has reported on scores of entertainment figures who used their power and money in Hollywood to sexually harass and coerce some of the most talented women in cinema and television. But as Karina Longworth reminds us, long before the Harvey Weinsteins there was Howard Hughes—the Texas millionaire, pilot, and filmmaker whose reputation as a cinematic provocateur was matched only by that as a prolific womanizer.

His supposed conquests between his first divorce in the late 1920s and his marriage to actress Jean Peters in 1957 included many of Hollywood’s most famous actresses, among them Billie Dove, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Lana Turner. From promoting bombshells like Jean Harlow and Jane Russell to his contentious battles with the censors, Hughes—perhaps more than any other filmmaker of his era—commoditized male desire as he objectified and sexualized women. Yet there were also numerous women pulled into Hughes’s grasp who never made it to the screen, sometimes virtually imprisoned by an increasingly paranoid and disturbed Hughes, who retained multitudes of private investigators, security personnel, and informers to make certain these actresses would not escape his clutches.

Vivid, perceptive, timely, and ridiculously entertaining, Seduction is a landmark work that examines women, sex, and male power in Hollywood during its golden age—a legacy that endures nearly a century later.

I’ve been a fan of Karina Longworth’s work on her podcast You Must Remember This for a while so I was really excited to see that she had a book coming out about Howard Hughes. Not because of Howard Hughes, because ew, gross, but because she was going to shine a light on the women he treated like garbage. Seduction is the story of how Hughes had this weirdly charming personality, convinced a lot of people that he knew what he was doing in the movie business, and ultimately became a person suffering from untreated mental illness.

One of the major themes in Seduction is how Hughes controlled women’s careers in the movie industry, to the extent that some of them didn’t even work during the time they lived in Hollywood. Women like Jane Russell, Faith Domergue, and Billie Dove who were poised for Betty Davis-levels of stardom, and who were good actresses, were reduced to their noticeable physical assets and made far fewer movies than contemporaries at other studios. Myraid other young women, some of them young enough to require their mothers to come with them, were lured to Hollywood with the promise of stardom and then kept under constant surveillance and prevented from working.

While I was not shocked that he was a completely gross, creepy, controlling predator, particularly toward very young women of a certain physical type, I was surprised that he was a really bad businessman and filmmaker (I should have known about the filmmaker stuff, I have seen The Conqueror, do not recommend). He tinkered with movies so long that they went over budget, or no longer made sense. RKO died under his leadership. The only reason he had money to blow in Hollywood was because he inherited an extremely prosperous manufacturing company from this father and then picked up lucrative defense contracts during World War II.

Hughes was not the only gross dude running around Hollywood between the 1920s and 1960s. There were a lot, trust me. For all the glitz and glamour, “classic” Hollywood had a lot of garbage hiding under rocks and Karina shines a very strong light on one particular corner. Now, if you have listened to some of the podcast episodes that were produced as part of the publicity for Seduction don’t worry that the same information is re-hashed in both places – the episodes and the book complement each other, so I highly recommend both.

Dear FTC: I borrowed a copy of this book from my store.

mini-review · Reading Graphically · stuff I read

Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak

38469986Summary from Goodreads:
Multi-award-winning cartoonist Carolyn Nowak (Lumberjanes) finds powerful truths in fantasy worlds. Her stunning solo debut collection celebrates the ascent of a rising star in comics.

Diana got hurt—a lot—and she’s decided to deal with this fact by purchasing a life-sized robot boyfriend. Mary and La-La host a podcast about a movie no one’s ever seen. Kelly has dragged her friend Beth out of her comfort zone—and into a day at the fantasy market that neither of them will forget.

Carolyn Nowak’s Girl Town collects the Ignatz Award-winning stories “Radishes” and “Diana’s Electric Tongue” together with several other tales of young adulthood and the search for connection. Here are her most acclaimed mini-comics and anthology contributions, enhanced with new colors and joined by brand-new work.

Bold, infatuated, wounded, or lost, Nowak’s girls shine with life and longing. Their stories—depicted with remarkable charm and insight—capture the spirit of our time.

Girl Town came across my radar as part of my second round of TBR (aka Pigeon) recommendations. (Thanks, Mya!) So I was reeeeeealy smart and got the Graphic Novel Book Group at my store to pick Girl Town for our December selection.

Ultimately, I liked this collection. I think Carolyn Nowak does great work with Lumberjanes, so I’m glad I read her own work in Girl Town. I really liked the two center stories, “Radishes” (about two young women at a fantasy-ish boardwalk market) and “Diana’s Electric Tongue” (about a woman who is fed up with dating and purchases a robot boyfriend). The other stories felt a bit unfinished in places, not necessarily because they all end abruptly, and one is a transfictional piece that incorporated multimedia-like panels surrounded by a lot of dialogue ballons and it was very hard to read. This is definitely a collection that fits in with Kelly Link, Sofia Samatar, Carmen Maria Machado, and Anjali Sachdeva, only sequential art instead of prose. If you’re a fan of those authors, I think you’ll like Nowak’s work.

Dear FTC: I bought a copy of this book after receiving the recommendation in my Pigeon.

mini-review · stuff I read · translation

Aladdin: A New Translation, translated by Yasmin Searle and edited by Paulo Lemos Horta

43234945Summary from Goodreads:
Long defined by popular film adaptations that have reductively portrayed Aladdin as a simplistic rags-to-riches story for children, this work of dazzling imagination—and occasionally dark themes—finally comes to vibrant new life. “In the capital of one of China’s vast and wealthy kingdoms,” begins Shahrazad— the tale’s imperiled-yet-ingenious storyteller—there lived Aladdin, a rebellious fifteen-year-old who falls prey to a double-crossing sorcerer and is ultimately saved by the ruse of a princess.

One of the best-loved folktales of all time, Aladdin has been capturing the imagination of readers, illustrators, and filmmakers since an eighteenth-century French publication first added the tale to The Arabian Nights. Yet, modern English translators have elided the story’s enchanting whimsy and mesmerizing rhythms. Now, translator Yasmine Seale and literary scholar Paulo Lemos Horta offer an elegant, eminently readable rendition of Aladdin in what is destined to be a classic for decades to come.

So, Aladdin lived in Agrabah with a small monkey and after getting tricked by Jafar and his mouthy parrot, he found a lamp with a funny blue genie and then married Princess Jasmine who lived in a palace with giant onion domes/looked like the Taj Mahal, right?

Eh, no. A new translation of Aladdin is just out from Liveright and it is a delight. This is a new translation from the French, drawn from a French edition by Antoine Galland in the early 1700s. Aladdin has a curious publication history, highlighted in Horta’s introduction. It has not been found in extant Arabic manuscripts of the 1001 Nights or The Arabian Nights, but was added to the collection by Galland after being told the story of Aladdin, and others, by a traveler from Aleppo, Hanna Diyab. If you’ve only been exposed to the Disney/Hollywood/children’s version of Aladdin this is fascinating reading. It definitely isn’t a children’s translation – the sentence structure is complex and this is an English translation of a French version of a Syrian tale that perhaps comes from centuries of oral tradition. Apparently, Aladdin’s kingdom is nearer to China than Arabia, who knew?

Searle is working on a new translation of the complete Arabian Nights, which I believe will be released in several volumes, and Aladdin is an early taste of her work as a translator of the French Galland edition. This is a very lovely translation to read and I’m definitely looking forward to the completed work.

Thanks to Liveright/Norton for the galley (I’m a little behind on my reading – Aladdin was released November 27).

Dear FTC: I read a digital galley from the publisher via Edelweiss.

 

audiobooks · mini-review · stuff I read

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps

39939598Summary from Goodreads:
A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the beloved comedic actress known for her roles on Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek, and Cougartown who has become “the breakout star on Instagram stories…imagine I Love Lucy mixed with a modern lifestyle guru” (The New Yorker).

Busy Philipps’s autobiographical book offers the same unfiltered and candid storytelling that her Instagram followers have come to know and love, from growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona and her painful and painfully funny teen years, to her life as a working actress, mother, and famous best friend.

Busy is the rare entertainer whose impressive arsenal of talents as an actress is equally matched by her storytelling ability, sense of humor, and sharp observations about life, love, and motherhood. Her conversational writing reminds us what we love about her on screens large and small. From film to television to Instagram, Busy delightfully showcases her wry humor and her willingness to bare it all.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to write this book. I’m just so grateful someone asked. Otherwise, what was the point of any of it??”

This Will Only Hurt a Little is a “celebrity memoir” in the vein of Mary-Louise Parker’s Dear Mr You. However, Busy names names when she needs to rather than give everyone pseudonyms and she’s basically done with a lot of the bullshit of Hollywood “stardom” or whatever. But what this book really turns into is the story of how Busy got to BE Busy, warts and all. How she was a kid who might have been a little messed up, choices that she made, how she bought into the misogyny of the acting business, how she learned to be a good friend when her besties went through terrible things, how to be a mom and partner in a relationship. (I did kind of want to kick her husband in the shins at times, because dude he doesn’t come off really well at times – this is addressed later, just an FYI, and they seem to be doing better.)

And here’s the thing: I hope Busy writes more. I want her to write more. Write some more scripts or does more directing or gets into producing if she doesn’t want to deal with casting anymore because she’s tired of getting burned. She has a good eye for a turn of phrase and clearly has comedy timing. The book could have used a bit tighter editing at times, but she tells a good story. She’s got her talk-show now (which looks excellent, but since I don’t have cable I haven’t been able to watch it) but I’d love to see her push forward outside of acting.

I listened to this on audiobook, read by Busy, and I really can’t conceive of it any other way now. The way she “does” her mom’s voice (it’s like the mom on That 70s Show), how you can hear her getting choked up at times. I got choked up. Definite recommend on the audio.

Dear FTC: I borrowed the audiobook via the library’s Overdrive system.

Romantic Reads · stuff I read

Cadenza by Stella Riley (Rockliffe #6)

42394213Summary from Goodreads:
The performance finished in a flourish of technical brilliance and the young man rose from the harpsichord to a storm of applause.
Julian Langham was poised on the brink of a dazzling career when the lawyers lured him into making a catastrophic mistake. Now, instead of the concert platform, he has a title he doesn’t want, an estate verging on bankruptcy … and bewildering responsibilities for which he is totally unfitted.
And yet the wreckage of Julian’s life is not a completely ill wind. For Tom, Rob and Ellie it brings something that is almost a miracle … if they dare believe in it.
Meanwhile, first-cousins Arabella Brandon and Elizabeth Marsden embark on a daring escapade which will provide each of them with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The adventure will last only a few weeks, after which everything will be the way it was before. Or so they think. What neither of them expects is for it to change a number of lives … most notably, their own.
And there is an additional complication of which they are wholly unaware.
The famed omniscience of the Duke of Rockliffe.

I heard the ad-read for Cadenza on Book Riot‘s When in Romance podcast and basically bought it immediately. There’s a first for everything. Georgian? Yes. There’s a professional-level musician? Yes. There’re two young women who trade places and romantic shenanigans ensue? Yes yes yes.

It’s really good. If you have run out of Georgette Heyer books to read (especially if you liked These Old Shades and others of her Georgian-set romances), Cadenza would be a good one to try. It has that same older, more dialogue-centered feel and no pre-marital hanky-panky. And, even though this is the last book in the series, you can totally read this one without worrying about reading in order or anything. If I hadn’t already known it was in a series I wouldn’t have guessed.

Plot-wise there are no surprises (womp womp), there is a plot reveal (someone has a SEKRIT) with a lot of build-up but is just dispensed in a single infodump conversation without much pay-off for the reader, and the ending is a bit over-long (I’d trim about 25 pages). But the music sections are lovely, Arabella and Julian’s interactions are delightful, and you really feel for Lizzie’s reticence and how much she has to lose with this scheme Arabella cooked up. I very much liked the character of Rockliffe as a deus ex machina so I’ll probably check out a few of the earlier books in the series.

Dear FTC: I bought a copy on my nook.

'Tis the Season · stuff I read

‘Tis the Season: I think we get to yell BINGO now #bookstorebingo

I haven’t done a ‘Tis the Season post in a while – none of the customers were uniquely strange or said anything funny. If I had a dollar every time I got asked where the Bibles were by a customer standing in front of the entire Bible aisle or similar….well, I could at least afford another student loan payment.

There is a Twitter hashtag #bookstorebingo (or #booksellerbingo, I’ve seen both) for booksellers tweeting about shit that only seems to happen to booksellers. Today the customers and staff were determined to get us to blackout on the imaginary bingo card.

I was asked:

  • To price-match Amazon (nerp)
  • To price-match Amazon after spending 20 minutes with the same customer and their long shopping list and offering to carry things and wrap gifts, etc. (yeah, websites don’t really do that for you)
  • To price-match Walmart (LOLwut)
  • To find a lost child (who was found by another bookseller when he came back into the store from outside)
  • To find a lost teacher (we had a school event today, oy)
  • To order a table lamp with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes logo (to start, we aren’t affiliated with the UI, and then lemme explain some things about trademarks and licensing, and then….we don’t sell bespoke lamps anyway)
  • To order a personalized, engraved bible (see also: things we don’t/can’t order)
  • To order A Song of Ice and Fire Book 6 (God laughed)
  • To order a desk calendar that didn’t exist (even Google couldn’t find this thing, so IDK what this person thought they saw in a magazine somewhere)
  • Why Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series wasn’t in the teen section, they looked like such good books for kids (I…are we sure we are talking about the same Mercy Thompson series? It’s not erotica or anything, but teens are not the target audience?)
  • We also:
    • Had a broken espresso machine for part of the day (again)
    • Had someone stick Bibles in the Stephen King section (thanks, jerk, because I have to put all of them back now)
    • Had a bookseller arrive late because he got in a minor fender bender (he’s fine)
    • Had a bookseller arrive very late because she had a flat tire and had to get it fixed (almost 4 hours late….use the donut that’s what it’s for)
    • Had a bookseller work only half his shift because the poor guy had two wisdom teeth extracted yesterday (that’s legit reasons to call out, imo)
    • Had a bookseller not show up because he couldn’t get his shift covered (idk about this one, the managers knew about it? So I stayed for a few extra hours because I like money and the store was a wreck and needed some sort of recovery so it didn’t look like a complete trash heap when I came back to work on Monday.)
    • Had a computer at customer service freeze repeatedly so we turned it off and I put a note that said “Frozen” on it and then everyone kept making “Let It Go” jokes (I did sort-of walk into that one)

    And competing for the center square:

    • Had a customer ask for a Harry Potter advent calendar, which we’ve been sold out of for weeks (look, world, the good/fun/cute advent calendars with LEGO mini-figures or toys or what have you sell out early every year no matter how many we order and are then unavailable until the following fall, so if you leave your advent calendar shopping until after advent has started you are left with a rather sad selection of “open the flap” and “chocolates of suspect age” advent calendars *whomp whomp*)
    • Had a kid barf in the children’s section which required both of our children’s booksellers to clean up and it was on the carpet requiring use of the weird stuff that “dries out the vomit” so it can be swept up and the carpet then vacuumed (this is the second time in almost two weeks that we’ve had a kid hurl in the middle of the kids’ section and our children’s leads are fucking metal about cleaning that up because I get even a hint of stomach smell and have to leave the area; also, we’re all probably going to die of norovirus now, it was nice knowing you, last Saturday I had to help unclog one of the toilets)
    • Had an unbelievably extra woman go up to one of the cashiers and complain about the booksellers cleaning up the vomit and couldn’t we do something else about it? (Like, what, stand around and smell it all day? Leave it there? Use the chunky vom as materiel for a story time craft project? The mind boggles.)

    Today’s BINGO squares brought to you by every tool bag customer who was absent that day in kindergarten when they taught patience, walked up to me while I was engaged with another customer, and interrupted to ask something stupid like if we sold magnetic phone chargers or whatever. If you aren’t on fire or missing a small child or need an ambulance, get in line.