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Search tags: sociocultural
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review 2017-10-18 04:51
The American Plate
The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites - Libby H. O'connell

A collection of "bites" about significant foods in American history, sometimes including recipes. I enjoyed this book at first and read half of it right away and then it took me a year and a half to read the second half. :(

 

What I liked: the historical trivia, the recipes that included the author's suggestions for contemporary or portion variations, and the broad selection of foods discussed. (Although honestly, I would not have minded not knowing about Kraft cheese. My childhood is ruined.)

 

What I didn't like: the soapbox politics that took up page space that could have been used to tell me more about the food. It seemed to get worse in the second half as the "bites" approached 20th century food culture.

 

As the title states, this book is also American-centric. YMMV on that bit.

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review 2017-09-06 10:24
Stiff
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach

Listened to the audiobook version.

 

The book itself: do not listen or read it on a full stomach. Do not listen or read it when you are about to eat. Just... do not. There were times when some of the details had me staring in horror at my audio device. A few times I felt my stomach turn. It is like a train wreck that you can't stop watching, you just plow onward through the chapters because each chapter is more horrifyingly interesting than the last. Part of this mind boggling need to press on is probably due in part to the author's wry comments that make the book more, dare I say, palatable. There is a strong moral bent towards body/organ donation, but otherwise it is pretty fair in leveling cultural perceptions from both sides of the field on various touchy subjects related to (the use of) dead bodies.

 

The audiobook: narration was excellent. I think Shelly Frasier was the narrator of my copy and her voice was very soothing but wondrously inflective* on those small bits of humor I mentioned above that really helps drag you through this crazy book. I think I would listen to just about anything she read regardless of topic.

 

*Shut up, spellcheck. I can make "inflective" a word! English language +1.

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quote 2017-07-16 08:18
Talent is universal, but opportunity is not.

Odede, Kennedy, and Jessica Posner. Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum. N.p.: Ecco, 2015. 13 Oct. 2015. Web.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-27 22:25
The Secret Rooms
The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery - Catherine Bailey

Alright, so this is odd - Goodreads and Booklikes and a few others list this book as "The Secret Rooms: A True Gothic Mystery" while Amazon and the library and other places list it as "The Secret Rooms: A True Story of a Haunted Castle, a Plotting Duchess, and a Family Secret."

 

The story flips between, firstly, the author's experience navigating the Duke of Rutland's family archive of letters for a book about the effect of the Great War on the local population which quickly changes to uncovering why there are missing sections of documents in this reportedly perfect record?! and, secondly, the events that occurred within the Manners family during and around the missing periods of time. The main character of focus is the 9th Duke of Rutland, John Manners whom was responsible for creating the archive originally. The mystery is narrowed down by the author to three missing sections of time in the records and she eventually uncovers enough evidence to recreate what likely happened.

 

An interesting story, but the reprinting of letters in their entirety multiple times towards the end of the book to show how all the pieces come together became very tiresome, very quickly. Otherwise I quite liked it.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-04-09 09:34
Hillbilly Elegy
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance

A bluntly honest reflection of the author's life and his family history dealing with being "hillbillies." The poverty and violence is not sugar-coated. He reflects on what is considered normal for their people and the change, generally for the worse, that has happened since his youth with the culture. There are some interesting observations about the middle-class white America attitudes in regards to contemporary policies under Obama, although it does not really touch on the results of the 2016 election as this was published in the middle of campaign season.

 

I thought it particularly interesting when he recapped what helped him succeed and it wasn't one or two people doing him a good turn, but several individuals closing gaps in his knowledge of social and life skills throughout his life. Although it is not discussed in depth except in regards to the small-town community lifestyle, the general message seems to be that in the absence of formally taught or available skills, the "it takes a village" method is the only way to succeed. It feeds into that line of thought that "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps" isn't enough, you need a bit of luck. Or a few well-placed friends that possess the know-how that you need.

 

Overall good. I hope there will be a follow-up in the future.

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