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text 2017-04-24 20:43
Books set in real places
Against the Paw - Diane Kelly

I was just talking with a coworker about this book. It's set in Fort Worth, Texas, where my coworker used to live. I had thought maybe the neighborhood where the book's peeping tom was operating was a fictional neighborhood shoehorned into a real city, but my coworker managed to find it on a map. So now I'm wondering if the residents of that neighborhood know about this book, how they feel about the peeping tom aspect, etc. I could see living in a specific neighborhood referenced in a book (particularly a contemporary-set one like this) being both cool and weird.


At the moment, I can only recall reading maybe three books set in places I knew well. Two of those were set in my home town - one dealt with an area of town I didn't know much about, and one made me laugh because the author had clearly also grown up in the same area (we had the same grumpy childhood complaints about having to come up with Halloween costumes that worked well with winter coats).

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review 2017-01-27 19:15
Margaret Atwood: The Heart Goes Last
The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood

I read this over Christmas, so only about a month ago, but it turns out I'd already forgotten half the plot. After briefly refreshing my memory, here's what I've got.


It's the near future and most major industries have collapsed due to an unspecified economic breakdown. Stan and Charmaine are living out of their car, working odd jobs and trying to make ends meet. When they are offered a safe(ish) life in a walled-off experimental town, they don't hesitate for long. The only catch: every other month they have to leave their artificial 1950s bliss for a stint in the town's prison. Meanwhile, alternates take their place – and soon throw their lives into turmoil. 


There are a few things about this novel that are just off, for lack of a better word. The main thing I couldn't get over was how naive and uncritical Charmaine was made out to be. Of course she was meant to be a foil to Stan (and her other, more secret self with Max) and a mirror of this whole 1950s aesthetic and how false it is, but come on: I opened the book at a random page to refamiliarise myself with the novel, and there she is, not even saying, but thinking: "Dang it to heck, I dropped a stitch."


You'd think a woman who has survived economic collapse and post-apocalyptic wastelands would get to swear inside the safety of her own head, but no. It's meant to be satirical, but it just kind of falls flat. And this assessment holds true for a large part of the novel. 


Then there's the respectability politics. Charmaine and Stan are not doing well, but at least they're not those people. Charmaine might be a waitress at the beginning of the narrative, but she can still sneer at sex workers. Stan doesn't have a job and no prospects of getting one, but a life of crime? Unthinkable. 


Margaret Atwood has always had certain blind spots (and penned some remarkable novels nonetheless), but in this book it was especially noticeable that what happens in the world is not a dystopia until it happens to formerly affluent, mentally and physically healthy, heterosexual white people. (For whom else were the 50s a grand time, anyway?)


All of this could have worked, and Atwood tries for an over the top, black humour approach, but it just doesn't, in the end. Work. By the time the last quarter of the book rolled around I was waiting for a very specific twist that might have made it all worthwhile, perhaps, but even that didn't happen. It was just sad to see a great author so out of touch. 

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review 2015-03-01 00:00
Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters
Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Li... Preparing to Write Settings That Feel Like Characters - J. Lenni Dorner I wrote it, so of course I love it!
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review 2015-02-06 13:42
Creative Napkins and Table Settings-Beautiful fantasy for me
Creative Napkins and Table Settings - Jimmy Ng

This book is pure fantasy for me. I love to entertain but our parties tend to run to burgers on the grill with kids running all over and the adults finding a quiet spot to eat. I think my parties are fun but wow, they are nothing like the beautiful scenes in this book. This is what I aspire to as time and resources allow. Not all the time, I still like the burgers and the running kids but sometimes the elegance of these place settings would be so fun and satisfying.


Jimmy Ng shows ways to fold a napkin that I couldn’t have imagined. Every example has a gorgeously photographed picture and step by step instructions. I didn’t know napkins could do some of the things he shows! He has examples for baby showers, Fourth of July dinners, weddings and dinner parties. He has Easter and St. Patrick’s day, just about any occasion you would give a dinner for. I think if I owned the proper napkins and had that little bit of extra time, I could actually do this.   At least the book makes me think I could do this and that’s what this type of book should do. Inspire me to do more than I’ve done before. He also shows wonderful place settings that give me plenty of ideas on how to use some of those things that I never pull out of the china closet.


We’re hosting Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house this year and I’d really like to try some of these ideas. I’d like to see if I could bring a little bit of this fantasy to my dining room.


Provided by Netgalley for an honest review.

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review 2014-10-15 14:24
Lovely coffetable book about tea
Victoria The Essential Tea Companion: Favorite Recipes for Tea Parties and Celebrations - Kim Waller,The Editors of Victoria Magazine

Tea for every occasion! Want to have tea for the holidays? A tea party? Tea and breakfast in bed? This book is for you.


Interspersed with discussion about tea as a drink,its history, etc., are recipes for different types of tea (from sick tummies to special occasions) as well as various recipes for goods to eat with tea: scones, cakes, muffins, waffles, etc.


This wasn't quite what I was looking for, but I enjoyed it anyway. Hard-core tea lovers or fans would probably find this fairly enjoyable to add to their collection. There are some gorgeous pictures of tea sets, tea settings, tea parties, etc. although there isn't much by way of cooking (ie how items are supposed to look in the process of being created.



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