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review 2017-02-14 23:08
Food: A Love Story
Food: A Love Story - Jim Gaffigan

This was my first exposure to the comedy of Jim Gaffigan.  I went with audio because I figured it would come the closest to seeing him live; he's the narrator, so you experience this book presumably the way it was intended to be delivered.


It was good.  At no point did I ever want to fast forward, or yell at him through my car speakers.  I found almost all of it amusing, and there were some great one liners, but other than one out-loud chuckle, most of the humour remained at the amusing level.


If asked about my favourite bit, I'd definitely say it's the part where he talks about McDonalds, and how everybody has their own McDonalds, whether it's Star Magazine, or the hidden stash of chocolate, or the Ben and Jerry's in the freezer, we all have a McDonalds equivalent.  This had me talking back to my dashboard: "Yeah, that's right, I never thought of it like that - we do all have our own McDonalds!".  


The narration was... ok.  I don't think anyone could have done it better - but there was, especially at the beginning, a bit of stiffness; a sense that he hadn't seen the material for some time before he started recording the narration.  Sometimes, he really got into it and then the narration was great; the listener got a good idea of how great he'd be in a live show.


I'm glad I listened to it; it was entertaining.  If Gaffigan were ever to make it this far on tour, I definitely pony up the money to see him live.

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review 2017-02-09 09:50
Speaking American: How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk
Speaking American: How Y'all, Youse , and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide - Josh Katz

Peregrinations mentioned this book in one of her posts and of course I had to immediately get it.  I live in a place where I am daily questioned on how I talk, and this has fostered a fascination with the English language and accents in particular.


This is a larger format book, not quite coffee table sized, but it could definitely hold its own with the art and architecture tomes.  Each page features large full color heat maps, showing the prevalence for one word over another (or one pronunciation over another) in each part of the country.  Some maps are mostly homogeneous ("roundabout"); some look as though someone drew a line through the country (usually an east/west line dividing north and south, of course) ("pyjamas").


MT and I had a great time comparing words and pronunciations, and laughing at the differences (and sometimes even similarities).  We had fun trying to figure out his spirit state, and while it became clear that I've picked up words and pronunciations from around the country (mostly Minnesota), I was happy to see that my language still places me firmly in my home state of Florida.


An interesting look at the differences between us that are fun rather than confronting and a great conversation starter.

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review 2017-02-06 05:38
No Two Persons Ever Read the Same Book: Quotes on Books, Reading and Writing
No Two Persons Ever Read the Same Book: Quotes on Books, Reading and Writing - Bart Van Aken

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this book was a gift.  An amazing gift made personal and unique by my bestie, so I was never going to rate this less than 5 stars.


Now that the bias has been disclosed, it is actually a beautiful book.  The cover is metallic gold cloth (not printed gold paper) and each page is set in it's own typeface, one that fits the spirit of the quote (as interpreted by the author and the typesetter, at least).


The best part:  each quote includes a small biography of its author and if the quote originated in another language, it's repeated in its native language.  This made it easy for me to curl up and read what is unarguably nothing more than a book of quotes as if it was a narrative, beginning to end, Saturday night.


If you are inclined towards collection books, I un-hesitatingly recommend this one.


"Book collecting is an obsession, an occupation, a disease, an addiction, a fascination, a fate.


It is not a hobby."


-Jeanette Winterson

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review 2017-02-04 07:27
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own (REALLY LONG POST)
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own - Kate Bolick

This was not quite the book I thought it was going to be.  That's not to say it isn't good; it's left me with much to think about, but ultimately I was hoping for something slightly different.


Based on the title and summary, I was expecting a book about a woman who made the conscious choice to live her own life, one that embraced the solitude she craved and was the result of her own conscious will and choices.


What I got was a woman who was pretty sure she wanted a life of her own making, but lacked the self-awareness to recognise that pretty much every one of her choices were aimed at making sure she was never alone.  By her own admission, in the 10+ years she lived in NYC chasing a solitary life, she was never alone.  When she wasn't in a relationship, she dated constantly, and filled her nights with nonstop socialising.  The few attempts she chronicles here at true solitude never last more than 2 weeks (and those two weeks had several "social" episodes).


What kept me reading was the similarity in life experiences Bolick and I shared - generally speaking.  After long term monogamous relationships in our 20's, we discovered independence in our 30's and, I think, shared similar questions concerning a life of one's own and what that meant.  To a point.  We diverge philosophically, however, in several places.  


Now, this is, of course, just my opinion and based on my life experiences, which, it goes without saying, are not everyone's.  But having said that, her premise from the beginning is flawed:


"Whom to marry, and when will it happen–these two questions define every woman's existence, regardless of where she was raised or what religion she does or doesn't practice."


No they don't.  They've never defined mine, anyway.


"Eventually, whether you choose or are chosen, joyously accept or grudgingly resist, you take the plunge.


You are born, you grow up, you become a wife."



Fatalistic much?


"But what if it wasn't this way?


What if a girl grew up like a boy, with marriage an abstract, someday thought, a thing to think about when she became an adult, a thing she could do, or not do, depending?


What would that look and feel like?"



Uh, it would look like me, and I guess it would feel pretty good?  I don't have anything else to compare it to, but I'm happy to have not had the constriction.


I never heard my mother say "when you get married" or "when you have kids".  She  constantly told me I could be whatever I wanted, making suggestions like artist, or cartoonist (mom goggles), but never once mentioned marriage.  The only comment she ever made about children, she only made once "If you're going to have any kids, just have them before I die so I can meet them.".   So I definitely grew up "like a boy".  (nb: my parents were married over 50 years, setting a stupidly high bar for happiness.)


All of this to say that Bolick's assertions that all women of our generation are locked into this stultifying cultural expectation is false from the get-go.  I understand that my mom may not have been the norm, but she wasn't a rarity either; my childhood wasn't special or unique.


Amidst all the navel-gazing, Bolick weaves the lives of 5 female authors that greatly influenced her journey to better self-awareness: Neith Boyce, Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edith Wharton.  She examines their lives and uses what she learns about them to figure out what it is she's trying to do for herself.  Self-analysis by literary analysis.  The device works, and I enjoyed learning about these ground-breaking women, although I think she might have romanticised their lives a bit.  


Bolick ties all of this, of course, to women's rights and feminism (although she rarely calls it feminism); it would be illogical to do anything else.  This book, our lives, would not be possible without these women and others like themselves.  But she takes it all a tiny step too far.  She argues that this imperative to marry, to have kids, to avoid being alone, dying alone, is the solemn birthright of women.  To which I say, that's a load of codswallop.  


Of course there's an unarticulated expectation for men to marry (an unmarried woman may be called a spinster, but an unmarried man has his sexuality questioned), and of course they feel this.  In most of the relationships around me, it's the men who have wanted to start families first, who are eager to become fathers, while simultaneously worrying that their lives will end if they do.  And I don't think anybody wants to die alone or remain unloved, or end up on the streets.  These are not gender specific worries, or desires, or fears, and by making them so, she perpetuates the separation that feminists fight so hard against.


Now, after sounding like I'm thoroughly bashing her efforts, I'm going to switch directions and say this is a very well written book.  There was more in here to agree with than disagree, once beyond the basic premise itself, and the author is refreshingly honest with both herself and the reader.  She spends a lot of time looking in the mirror and she doesn't waste a lot of her or the reader's time rationalising her decisions or her actions.  You get the sense at the end that the journey wasn't in vain, and that perhaps she's finally stood still long enough to embrace solitude and really make a life of her own.

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review 2017-02-03 08:17
Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs - Robert Sabuda,Matthew Reinhart

(This is going to be a picture intensive post.)


I've only just come out of the pop-up book closet, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say I've found the best pop-up books out there.  The first one being Encyclopedia Prehistorica: Dinosaurs.


This pop up book is extravagant; there's no other word for it.  Most pop up books save the best for last, a grand finale on the last page to leave you with a "wow" at the end.  Every page of this book is a grand finale page.  If the center image doesn't impress (although I can't imagine why it wouldn't), each page spread has small inset pages, and these contain pop up images too; of of these inset pages have more pages with more pop ups in them.


The intricate and sometimes delicate construction of these pages, as well as the writing, seems geared towards an older child, say 10-12 years old.  The writing is informative, and there are pronunciation guides for each of the dinosaurs.  Best of all, at the end, the authors devote an inset mini-book to why the dinosaurs disappeared; they offer several of the prevailing theories without giving weight to one over the other, ending with we don't know why they disappeared for certain.  Responsible writing - I love it.


So here are the pictures (I could not pick out just a couple, so there are a lot of them here):


A typical page:

Each of those bits in the corners is another pop up:

Some of them have multiple pages of small pop-ups:


(on the left is a multi page mini popup and the right side is a mini pop up page with flaps that open up on either side with more popups.)


This one gives an idea of the scale; not only of the dinosaur (with the man and elephant) but of the art itself.


For the T-Rex fans out there:


My only complaint is that each of those mini pages are held down with a photo-corner type thing.  They do need to be held down, and I can't think of a better way to do it, but the corners require the reader to slightly bend the pages to get them in and out; over time and use, that's going to weaken the paper.


Saying that though, I can't recommend this book too much; it's fabulous.  Kids and adults alike will find something to ooh and ahh over.  MT has already asked if he could take it to work to show the guys; admittedly he is in the printing business but I don't think there's anyone out there that won't find much here to be impressed with.



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