Bookish Tuesday

Books That Made Me Happy

Coming into the holiday book/gift buying season, I like to reflect on the books that brought me joy – very few people want tearjerkers as their holiday read! Below are just a few titles that are on my “holiday recommendations” shelf at the store!

Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath

Rejected Princesses

I can’t say enough how wonderful this book is. Equal parts cute and adorable and completely badass, it’s a great compendium of women throughout history who did wonderful and totally rad things!

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Notorious RBG

Another woman who has done, and continues to do, fabulous things, RBG is quickly becoming the hero of the millennials and liberals and we hold our breath every time she takes a spill. Whether you agree with her positions or not, she’s led a remarkable life and this biography of her is worth a read.

Royally Matched by Emma Chase

43-Royally Matched

I love a fun new adult romance – I read one a year around the holidays. They make me feel cozy and love the Prince Harry inspired Royally Matched for it’s approach to more than just romance – there’s friendship, mental health discussions, all sorts of worthwhile secondary characters – it’s worth judging by more than just the half naked dude on the cover.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr Penumbra

A fun, again millennial, story about bookstores and the people who work in them. The bookseller in me adores this book (I even convinced my boss to read it and he loved it), and it’s just a great relaxing read that really allows your mind to explore the Mr. Penumbra’s store in your head – it’s different for everyone and that’s one of the many things I love so much about it.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy

Jenny Lawson always brings a smile to my face. I bought a copy of Furiously Happy for my cousin-in-law who just started college last year and it has become a favorite gift for me to give to other young women (and men!) in the family.

Essays, Non-Fiction, Sociology

Shrill by Lindy West

I have no idea why WordPress unpublished this review from last week, but here it is, once more on the blog!

In my never-ending quest to find a fun audiobook to listen to before bed, I stumbled upon Shrill and was immediately intrigued. I remembered picking it up at the store months ago and it sounding interesting so I figured I’d give it a shot!

Synopsis

Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible – like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you – bestselling author and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered she was anything but.

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

Review

I love a good sociology essay collection and Lindy’s is up there with Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me. While I found some of the essays difficult to relate to from her perspective, a decent number of the essays have to do with body type and stereotypes, but they certainly made me think about my preconceived notions about people who are different than me, in terms of body type. People who are, as Lindy says, Fat, face a whole different and unique set of challenges in navigating everyday life, along with the stigma and dirty glances from other humans which I had never really noticed before.

While thinking differently about my inherent biases is my primary take away from Lindy’s book, there were certainly essays that reminded me that we really are just human beings, looking for love and respect from everyone. The essay about dealing with trolls is one I could relate to – I’ve been trolled online for having asthma, as well as the pair of essays, “The End” and “The Beginning.”

Lindy’s father died of cancer. And if you’ve ever had to watch a loved one die slowly from a disease or illness that medical science could no longer treat, you’ll recognize the optimism, fear, grief, all the feelings that are associated with the sense of loss, that Lindy describes. Those two essays resonated with me the most, and I highly recommend picking up this collection if you want a laugh, a cry, and all the emotions in between.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9780316348461 • 272 pages • first published May 2016, this edition published February 2017 by Hachette Books • average Goodreads rating 4.21 out of 5 stars • read in November 2018

 

Shrill b&w

Bookish Tuesday

The Age Old Debate: Book vs. Movie

is the question all book lovers are asked, “Well, which was better? The book or the movie?” And every good book lover knows that the correct answer, 99% of the time, is “The book, of course!” But sometimes, we book lovers must admit that the filmmakers did something well and the movie, is in fact, quite good. Below are some of each – my favorite films and television adaptations, as well as a few that completely missed the mark.

In Extremis & A Private War

While they are not directly related, the film A Private War is based on a Vanity Fair article, “Marie Colvin’s Private War,” their near simultaneous release dates and identical subjects make them inexorably linked. In Extremis is my favorite book of the year, and continues my great love of war correspondent books. Rosamund Pike plays Marie Colvin in A Private War and she does an absolutely tremendous job – Oscar worthy in my opinion. I give both book & film two very enthusiastic thumbs up!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

When I first sat down to watch the film adaptation of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I was so excited – a, it’s practically a Downton Abbey reunion, b, I was super curious about how they were going to adapt the letters into a cohesive narrative, and c, I wanted to see Guernsey. The cast captured the characters almost exactly as I imagined them and it was wonderful. However, on that fateful first watching, I ranted about how the filmmakers changed parts of the story. Which, as a filmmaker, I know you kind of have to when the source material doesn’t give a clear cut narrative structure for drama and tension. So now, I must think of them as two entirely separate entities, and, in that manner, I enjoy them both tremendously.

The Magicians

I was very excited about The Magicians television adaptation, and, well. I hated it. Quentin, oh my Quentin, you are perfectly cast. And Alice, I adore you. But WHY OH WHY DO WE NEED NEW CHARACTERS? And why does Julia have to have such a large role? It’s well done, I give the show runners credit for that. But I feel like the changes made were not wholly necessary. It captured the spirit for the most part, but when you have a cast of characters who are fairly apathetic by nature, it is hard to feel invested in a show. In the books, you can always hold out hope that they’re different in your head and create your own head-cannon.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This is a tricky one – a true purist will tell you that the book is always best, followed by the original adaptation, then the remake. Which, technically, the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo could be considered a remake… but it is far superior to the Swedish adaptation, in style, plot, and depiction of Lisbeth. In my humble opinion of course, but as it is one of my husband’s all time favorite movies, I might be a touch bias.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Some movies are just so bad they’re good. I love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film because it’s just so bad. It’s not even a guilty pleasure, it’s just a really good bad movie. It’s funny and enjoyable and, so long as you don’t think too hard about it, a fairly accurate depiction of the book!

Non-Fiction

The Story of the Great British Bake Off by Anita Singh

Before heading over to London to visit my sister in June, I figured I should brush up on what is currently topping British popularity charts – that meant, Bake Off! I downloaded a whole season on Netflix for my overnight flight across the pond and wound up watching all night instead of sleeping!

Synopsis

When The Great British Bake Off made its debut in August 2010, it had the makings of a modest hit. But nobody – not the programme-makers and certainly not those first contestants – could have predicted what was to come. Here was a show in which the biggest weekly drama was whether or not a sponge cake would sink in the middle. And oh, how we loved it.

Here is the ultimate Bake Off fan book: from Bread Lions to Bavarian Clock Towers; from heart-throbs to heroes; from soggy-bottoms to sticky buns. This is the celebration of Britain’s most popular cookery contest.

Review

In honor of a new season popping up on Netflix on Friday in the US and the start of the holiday shopping season, I give you, The Story of the Great British Bake Off! I’ve been an avid baker for a few years – my family always did more in the way of candy making pre-holidays before I took on epic cake decorating in college as a way to de-stress and be creative. I’ve never done anything on par with GBBO’s showstoppers, but a couple of the signature bakes are similar to things I’ve concocted in the past. But first, for those unfamiliar, a bit of background on The Great British Bake Off.

The Great British Bake Off is the antithesis of American cooking and baking competitions. The biggest difference – there’s NO prize money. The 12 amateur bakers compete for fun. The competition takes place over 10 weekends and bakers must get themselves back and forth from the competition site and their homes across the UK every weekend that they are on the show. The vast majority compete while working full time, going to school full time, etc.

Each episode/competition/weekend sees the bakers face three challenges – the first, a signature challenge that they get to practice ahead of time, the second, a technical challenge just blind by the judges and a complete surprise to the bakers each week, and the third, the following day, the showstopper challenge, a long bake that is usually difficult technically and detailed in regards to decoration.

The book follows the first seven seasons of the show, the seasons that aired on the BBC before the show made the jump to Channel 4. Here in the US, it includes the seasons that have aired/are airing on PBS, the first four seasons on Netflix as The Great British Baking Show and The Great British Baking Show: The Beginnings. Because that’s not confusing at all…

What that means is that to American readers, one should avoid some of the early chapters because those seasons haven’t aired yet here. However, it is a fun and insightful look at the show for us here in the states who did not have a great deal of background information on the series while they were airing or who, like me, are latecomers to the GBBO phenomenon.

It’s an absolutely delightful read and the perfect gift for your favorite fellow GBBO enthusiast!

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $29.95 • 9781786694430 • 224 pages • published January 2018 by Head of Zeus • average Goodreads rating 3.54 out of 5 • read in August 2018

The Great British Bake Off Website

The Story of the Great British Bake Off on Goodreads

Get a Copy of The Story of the Great British Bake Off

savingpng

Biography, Non-Fiction

In Extremis: The Life and Death of War Correspondent Marie Colvin by Lindsey Hilsum

I first came across In Extremis when going through front list (new release) publisher orders and, thanked my lucky stars I have such a good relationship with the rep because when I begged her to send me an advance copy, she happily obliged. And I think it is safe to say, In Extremis is my favorite read of the entire year.

Synopsis

When Marie Colvin was killed in an artillery attack in Homs, Syria, in 2012, at age fifty-six, the world lost a fearless and iconoclastic war correspondent who covered the most significant global calamities of her lifetime. In Extremis, written by her fellow reporter Lindsey Hilsum, is a thrilling investigation into Colvin’s epic life and tragic death based on exclusive access to her intimate diaries from age thirteen to her death, interviews with people from every corner of her life, and impeccable research.

After growing up in a middle-class Catholic family on Long Island, Colvin studied with the legendary journalist John Hersey at Yale, and eventually started working for The Sunday Times of London, where she gained a reputation for bravery and compassion as she told the stories of victims of the major conflicts of our time. She lost sight in one eye while in Sri Lanka covering the civil war, interviewed Gaddafi and Arafat many times, and repeatedly risked her life covering conflicts in Chechnya, East Timor, Kosovo, and the Middle East. Colvin lived her personal life in extremis, too: bold, driven, and complex, she was married twice, took many lovers, drank and smoked, and rejected society’s expectations for women. Despite PTSD, she refused to give up reporting. Like her hero Martha Gellhorn, Colvin was committed to bearing witness to the horrifying truths of war, and to shining a light on the profound suffering of ordinary people caught in the midst of conflict.

Review

I love war correspondents’ memoirs and biographies – It’s What I Do was one of my favorite reads of last year. And, just, oh my goodness. In Extremis dethroned Lynsey from the top of my personal ranking. Granted, I’ve only read two to completion so far (I’m reading Martha Gellhorn’s, the role model for both Lynsey and Marie, right now), but goodness gracious, it will be a long time before I find another book like this. And it caused one of the longest book hangovers I’ve ever had. And, through In Extremis, I had the opportunity to check off a book seller life goal and be the first review for a title on Goodreads and Lindsey Hilsum responded to my review!

My husband, Ben, and I have been together for almost a decade and he could not recall a single instance in that time when I stayed up past midnight to read. I absolutely love to read, but am borderline narcoleptic so I’m not a big night time reader. But for days on end, I stayed up far later than I should have, unable to put down Lindsey Hilsum’s marvelous biography of her friend and fellow journalist, Marie Colvin.

Lindsey Hilsum is, in the humble opinion of someone who has not personally met her, the best person to write Marie Colvin’s biography. A friend, but not an intimate acquaintance, she approaches her subject with the kind and caring hands of someone who felt a deep loss when she died, but removed enough to offer a fairly objective perspective on the life decisions she made that led her to that final, fateful trip to Homs, Syria in 2012. Marie kept extensive journals her entire life and they serve as the basis for the bulk of In Extremis, making it as close to an autobiography as it could possibly be. Sprinkled in are excerpts from Marie’s reporting for London’s Sunday Times, and they offer an even deeper glimpse into what inspired and drove her to seek out war zones and report on the stories of the people who live there.

A few years ago, Ben & I visited the Newseum in Washington D. C. which triggered my current obsession with journalism. I’d always loved writing and have been a news junkie from a very young age (the day does not start until I’ve checked the BBC, CNN and my custom Google newsfeed), but I never appreciated just how important journalists are worldwide until that trip. They are responsible for keeping the world apprised of the goings on in far reaches of the world and at home. And nothing, well, almost nothing, in regards to my country’s current political climate, makes me angrier than the unofficial war on journalism and the president’s constant claims of fake news. As I rally against it, and uninformed fellow Americans, I remind myself of the fact that Marie Colvin had to stand up to people who challenged the authenticity of her reporting and she did so with kindness, grace, and style.

Even though Marie’s personal life may have been a bit of a mess, okay, quite a big mess, she played a crucial role in ensuring that the western world knew exactly what was going on in the war zones of the world, particularly the Middle East. It is easy enough for those of us sitting in our living rooms in the Northeast of the US to ignore the challenges facing not only that area of the world, but also in Europe as they struggle to accommodate record numbers of refugees, and to dehumanize those who are struggling because their struggles don’t affect us directly. But Marie wouldn’t let us. She did everything in her power to bring that suffering, the plights of the people who were displaced from their homes, and the challenges they faced daily, into our collective consciousness.

When reading, and therefore constantly Google-ing Marie Colvin, I came across the production of A Private War, Matthew Heineman’s cinematic depiction of Marie’s life. While the movie is based on the Vanity Fair article published immediately after Marie’s death and not on Lindsey’s biography, the two, given their near simultaneous release dates, will become inexorably tied to each other in future. I was very nervous when I found out that Rosamund Pike is playing Marie – I adored her in Pride & Prejudice, but is she the best choice to play my new hero? After reading articles about production and how much the process of portraying Marie affected her personally, and the fact that a documentary filmmaker is at the helm, I’m far less concerned and a great deal more excited.

Lindsey’s writing is tremendous, Marie’s life equal parts inspiring and cautionary tale, and I truly hope that her story reaches as many people as possible and helps us all recognize that we are all human. We all share this world, and the sufferings of a few are the sufferings of us all.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $28.00 • 9780374175597 • 400 pages • published November 2018 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux • read September 2018

In Extremis on Goodreads

Get a Copy of In Extremis

In Extremis