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text 2016-03-11 22:49
Fabulous Five Friday: Books About Clothes and Style (3/11/2016)
The Little Black Book of Style - Nina Garcia,Ruben Toledo
The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own - Nina Garcia,Ruben Toledo
I Love Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style - Amanda Brooks
The Sartorialist - Scott Schuman
The Thoughtful Dresser - Linda Grant

Fabulous 5 Friday: Books About Clothes and Style


I’m a sucker for style books. Not books about fashion, per se, but about personal style and the relationships we develop with clothing. Humans are highly visual and clothing is one of the many heuristics we use to make judgments, intentional or not. Anyone who says they don’t care about style or only wear what is comfortable is still making a style choice; it’s an unavoidable part of living in society. Humans value self-expression and we communicate through clothing in conscious and unconscious ways. If you doubt this, just think about how you feel when you go out dressed to the nines versus running to the store in your sweatpants. You feel different, don’t you? Whether one of those experiences is “better” than the other is up to personal preference, but they certainly are different. Personally, I find this sort of clothing-as-language phenomenon fascinating and I like to take some time, usually once or twice a year, to look at my closet and see what I’m saying to the world and what I would like to change. I also just really enjoy clothes.


These books are the “guides” (really more like inspiration) I use when my closet cleaning mood strikes. Each must be taken with a grain of salt; they are almost all written by people who work in the fashion world and are privileged financially and socially, and they tend to have a severe lack of body diversity. But they are all fun and helpful in their own, somewhat limited ways.



The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia


You may know Garcia from her regular stint as a judge on Project Runway. She has been an editor and/or fashion director for several big name fashion magazines, most famously Elle and Marie Claire, so she certainly has her fashion credentials. What I really appreciate about Garcia’s take on the genre is that she is straightforward about the difference between having personal style versus simply following fashion. She may work in the fashion world (and come from a stylish, wealthy background) but she appreciates the little personal touches that make a wardrobe something genuinely expressive. She may namedrop like any fashion insider, but she doesn’t let that overshadow a genuine love for self-expression and self-respect. Plus, the watercolor illustrations by Ruben Toledo are fabulous.


The One Hundred by Nina Garcia


Perhaps this is cheating, but I had to give the second choice to Garcia as well (she’s written 4 books so far). The One Hundred is less about the “how to” and more a fun reference guide for the items that have proven themselves as staples time and time again. She gives advice on what pieces are worth investment versus which ones can be cheap fun while also giving little mini-history and pop culture lessons on various iconic items like trench coats and cashmere sweaters. There are a few chapters that are misses (in my personal opinion) but everyone’s list of “must haves” will vary and she acknowledges that, too. This one is also illustrated by Ruben Toledo.


I Love Your Style by Amanda Brooks


Amanda Brooks, much like Nina Garcia, comes from a pretty well-to-do background and has a lot of connections in the fashion world. Even so, she has a decidedly eclectic sense of style, which she illustrates (literally and figuratively) in this style-manual-cum-memoir. The photographs alone are worth the price of admission, but she has some pretty good advice to give, too. Anyone who has made as many questionable clothing decisions as Brooks has to have something worthwhile to teach. The beginning of the book is devoted to her life as a budding fashionista, while the rest is a sort of reference book for particular “types” of style and how that translates in all sorts of different ways for different people. I love looking at the vintage pictures of people like Cher and Bianca Jagger for inspiration, I just wish there was more body diversity.


The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman


Anyone with even a passing interest in clothes or street style blogs knows of The Sartorialist. While everything in the book can be seen online on the original blog, the book itself is like a little trove of amazing images that you can peruse when the mood strikes or you need a little inspiration. Unlike Garcia and Brooks, Scott Schuman isn’t focused on capturing one vision of personal style, but of celebrating it in all kinds of ways and on all types of people. There may still be some snobbery here and there, but it’s overall a supremely open-ended way to look at beauty and self-expression.


The Thoughful Dresser by Linda Grant


This is a book that looks at the personal ways we are affected by clothes, rather than offering any sort of style advice. “The only thing worse than being skint (poor) is looking skint.” Until I read this line in The Thoughtful Dresser, I had never fully processed the way I think about clothes and social class. We all know that clothing can be used to assess wealth on some level, but we forget that clothing can also allow for a sort of dignity that may be otherwise unavailable to someone who is struggling. Every time someone complains that a “poor” person spent money on new clothes instead of some other necessity, I think about this. Grant looks at clothing as a means to various ends: she looks at a woman “saved” by clothing after surviving a concentration camp, at women who were able to turn shopping into an act of independence, and at the many ways we use clothing as a marker of identity.





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review 2014-12-22 02:44
A Pleasant Surprise
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky: A Novel - Lydia Netzer,Joshilyn Jackson

I do love suprises.  As long as they are pleasant and not accidental. For the first quarter to a third of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.  It was weird and it seemed just weird for weird’s sake. I don’t mind weird as long as it has a purpose and in the end I think the strange beginning of the book does serve a purpose. 


And maybe it’s not fair to call it weird.  It’s quirky.  It’s about two astronomers, George and Irene and it’s about their Mothers who raised them in Toledo. Their mothers were best friends growing up and decided that they would raise their children to be soul-mates using astrology and psychology.  They do it as an experiment and so that their children can experience true love and be happy.  It’s a quirky premise and in the beginning I felt like I was having trouble, connecting the dots and connecting with the characters.   People don’t quite interact with each other in any kind of normally acceptable manner.  There’s a side character who was raised by her priest father to not speak but only use music until he is arrested for child endangerment when she’s 5 or 6.  She speaks without inflection, she sits with her feet dangling out the window of her office at the Toledo Institute of Astronomy and plays an instrument.  Later she frolics in Lake Erie with Narwhals.  So. Quirky. 


George initially seems kind of stupid and shallow and wacky as he hallucinates gods and goddesses frolicking and speaking to him.  Irene is cold and practically devoid of emotion.  What kept me hooked through this first part of the book were the flashbacks to George and Irene’s mothers’ childhood.  Sally and Bernice’s friendship is real and it anchors the more surreal parts of the narrative. 


Then George and Irene meet and everything starts to make sense and feel more like real life.  The book never becomes fully grounded in reality but the important word here is sense.  It all starts to make sense.  George and Irene transform each other into real live human beings who are funny and sweet and smart and even a little wise. I'm pretty this shift is deliberate and its kind of awesome. Before these two “stars” align everything is just a little off kilter but as soon as they come together, order in some sense is restored.   In the first third of the book I could not in any way connect to the characters, once they meet I almost immediately began to sympathize with and love them.


“It’s more like every electron in every atom in the universe paused, breathed in deeply, assessed the situation, and then reversed its course, spinning backward, or the other way, which was the right way all along. And afterward, the universe was exactly the same, but infinitely more right.”


What else did I love?  There is all sorts of fun astronomy speak. It is laugh out loud funny at times. The writing is lovely. The ending was completely unexpected and possibly quite clever – is it real?  After I got through the first bit, I found it addictively readable. 


The narration was very good and fit the book well.  Like the style of the book, it did take me a while to warm up to it but once I did I loved it.


Final Verdict:  This book was a pleasant surprise.

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text 2014-11-06 05:16
November - December List
The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Prisoner of Heaven - Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Nada - Carmen Laforet
Los Desencontrados - Mario Monteforte Toledo
Blindness - José Saramago
Seeing - José Saramago
Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
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review 2014-09-17 14:29
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky: A Novel - Lydia Netzer,Joshilyn Jackson

George and Irene are two scientists who feel an instant romantic connection, but later question whether that connection is genuine. The storyline alternates between present day and the 1970s-80s, where the reader also spends some time with George and Irene's mothers.

I found this story to be very odd, and unlike pretty much any other book I have read. Because of the weirdness, I didn't really enjoy it. There were many odd characters, and lots of strange things took place. For example, a narwhal was pulled out of the river by hand, and some of the characters communicated in their own made-up language. There are a lot of descriptions of astronomy topics. Frequently, the thoughts and feelings of the character's are described in very abstract ways. There were some funny moments where I laughed out loud. The intimate scenes and scenes in which intimate topics were discussed were just awkward, gross, and weird.

I would have liked more on the Belion/Silvergirl story. I feel like that just kind of fizzled out. I felt like the ending was kind of quick and abrupt, although I will say I did like how it ended.

As for the audiobook, the characters are well differentiated by the narrator, although the voices used were over dramatic and cartoonish. It was almost as if she tried too hard to differentiate the characters, and ended up with over the top voices. Multiple times I was stopped in surprise by the bizarre voices I heard. The annunciation was great, but her voice was child-like. Some of the character's voices were quite annoying, particularly Belion, Bernice and Dean. If someone I knew in real life had a voice like Belion's, I think I would avoid talking to them. He sounded like a rugged old mountain man, but he was supposed to be a 30ish gamer guy. This type of narration definitely added to the weirdness of the book.

Overall, this story was just too weird for me to really like. I know I have used the word "weird" a lot, but that is just the best way to sum up my thoughts and feelings after listening to this book!

This is the first book I have read by Lydia Netzer, but I have listened to other books narrated by Joshilyn Jackson, and enjoyed them.

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky: A Novelis by Lydia Netzer, narrated by Joshilyn Jackson. This audio book consists of 9 CDs and is 11.5 hours. This is a Macmillan Audiobook from St. Martin's Press, published in 2014. I was provided a copy by Audiobook Jukebox to listen to and review.

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review 2014-06-13 00:00
Nina Garcia's Look Book: What to Wear for Every Occasion
Nina Garcia's Look Book: What to Wear for Every Occasion - Nina Garcia,Ruben Toledo This is a great book to keep for reference. It's also a fun read for the fashion conscious to see if they were dressed right according to Nina for that occasion! But if you're the least bit unsure of what you should be wearing for an event, Nina really does give you good solid advice from head to toe. If you're unsure of a reference about a designer, just google them. She's referring to a "look", the usual style of the designer (tailored, feminine, bold, casual, etc.). This can be your road map or your jumping off point. Whichever, Nina gets it right for so many ocassions!
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