Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Oddly enough, Kitchen Confidential was not the first Bourdain I read, but the last, despite it being the entire reason that the world knows his name. I put it off, thinking that they way it was described was not in line with the Tony I had come to know and respect through his various television programs and world travels. But I was wrong. So wrong.

Synopsis

After twenty-five years of ‘sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine’, chef and novelist Anthony Bourdain decides to tell all. From his first oyster in the Gironde to his lowly position as a dishwasher in a honky-tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown, from the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop the Rockefeller Center to drug dealers in East Village, from Tokyo to Paris and back to New York again, Bourdain’s tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable, as shocking as they are funny.

Review

By sheer happenstance, my husband and I spent June 8th on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Tony’s home of many years (when he wasn’t traveling, which was rare). We were going to a concert in Brooklyn that night and decided to go the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) for the day. As we were driving to our “local” train station in NJ in rush hour traffic from our home west of Philadelphia, we listened to NPR, as we always do. And around 8AM, as we sat in Trenton traffic, we turned the volume up because we couldn’t believe what we had heard. Tony died. By his own hand. To my husband and I, this was unthinkable. We’d been watching No Reservations since we’d started dating. Our relationship had two television constants, Top Gear and Tony.

As we made our way into the city on NJ Transit as we’ve done countless times before, I took my usual news junkie status to a new level. My hero, he was gone. Gone without explanation. The BBC, CNN, NBC, ABC, NPR, no one had anything else to report except that which we already knew. He was gone. I texted my boss at the bookstore straight away and begged him to put the books in stock out on display with the staff pick blurbs I’d written for them ages ago. Medium Raw, my favorite summer read, Appetites, the only cookbook I cook out of, and, though I hadn’t read it, obviously we needed to order in Kitchen Confidential ASAP. Then I started dreading the fact that I’d be meeting with our publisher rep at the start of the week, the rep who handled his imprint for Harper Collins. I couldn’t bring myself to think straight.

I looked up whether or not we could get a reservation for a mid-afternoon meal at Les Halles, only to discover it had closed. Only months ago, we could have gone and didn’t. I kicked myself for it. When we walked past it later in the day, I saw the remembrances people had left. It inspired my first post two days later, Dear Tony. I debated whether or not I could bring myself to watch Parts Unknown anymore and when it turned out to be too tear-inducing, I decided to read the one book of his I didn’t want to, Kitchen Confidential.

I was afraid I wouldn’t like it. I was afraid it would talk too much about drug use and that I didn’t really want to read about, I’ve dealt with it enough in my family. I was afraid that the Tony writing was different than the Tony we’d come to know and love. And then, I decided to be brave and listen to him read it. I was on my way to London to visit my sister when I finally gave in. I still didn’t even own a copy of it. But after only five minutes, I realized I had nothing to worry about – Tony was still Tony – already a master storyteller, already with three novels to his name, already well on his way to not becoming, but staying himself, and then revealing that self to the world. And when I found a special edition of the book with all his notes and handwritten margin doodles at a bookshop in London, well, I had to have it.

Kitchen Confidential is, for anyone who has gotten to know Anthony Bourdain through his various shows, thoroughly him. The story isn’t linear or chronological (his never are, even Parts Unknown), and he is very open and honest about his periods of dishonesty and chef-poaching, honest about his privileged upbringing and squandering it, honest about the world of the professional kitchen. Honest and candid about his life and how he got to where he is, and the result, for anyone who, like me, had watched for years and never read, is heartbreaking.

Because in reading now, for the first time, it is impossible to disassociate the book with the end. It is impossible to ignore the fact that we will never have another Bourdain masterpiece. Impossible to forget that he’s no longer here to tell us stories on Sunday night. Impossible to understand how things went this way. Because as much as I wish I had known him, I didn’t. I didn’t know, I don’t know, what led him to do what he did. But I can read his works, reread, rewatch, and hope, beyond hope, that he has changed the world for the better.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars (Medium Raw is still my favorite)

Edition: Paperback • £10.99/$16.99 • 9781408845042 (UK)/9780060899226 (US) • 352 pages • originally published May 2000 by Bloomsbury • average Goodreads rating 4.02 out of 5 • read in July 2018

Kitchen Confidential on Goodreads

Get the US Edition of Kitchen Confidential

Get the UK Edition of Kitchen Confidential (pictured below)

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Bookish Tuesday, Non-Fiction

Favorite Nonfiction

As I’m currently listening to Kitchen Confidential and crying randomly about how the world is worse off without Anthony Bourdain’s storytelling, I’ve been thinking more and more about the nonfiction that has touched my heart just as much as works of fiction.

1. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

My first Bourdain. Like your first cocktail or boyfriend or first trip abroad or first food that you really, truly loved, you never forget your first Bourdain.

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2. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

Need some inspiration? Decided it’s time to make a change in your life? Pick #Girlboss, Sophia does not disappoint.

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3. The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

Thought you knew a lot about World War II? Think again. The stories these women share are absolutely incredible and many will shake you to the core.

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4. Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Dead Wake was the book that first made me realize that I can read nonfiction and like it. He epitomizes the phrase “novelistic nonfiction.”

Dead Wake

5. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

One cannot call oneself a feminist without having read about the greatness that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Notorious RBG

Non-Fiction, Travel

Everyday Adventures by Lonely Planet

I love fun travel books, especially ones that are easy enough to explore or implement close to home. This one in particular caught my eye as I have a little elephant, Ellie, traveling companion who joins me on not only big overseas adventures, but also close to home adventures and I always need pictures for her Instagram account! (@adventuresofellietheelephant). *This book comes out this coming Tuesday, July 17th*

Synopsis

Weave a little wonder into daily life with these fun and challenging activities – and experience your local area in a whole new way. Invite friends on a social adventure, follow your senses to somewhere new and embark on a cultural odyssey. Lonely Planet shows you how to embrace the traveler spirit and discover a new side to where you live.

Review

If asked my hometown, I usually tell people it is Carlisle, PA. If asked where I grew up? Gettysburg. If asked where I went to college, Pittsburgh, where I live now, Phoenixville, all in Pennsylvania. So I generally consider my state to be my hometown to explore. I have great loyalty for my state, particularly the southeastern corner where I live now.

When we first moved to Gettysburg, a BIG tourist town (major battle of the Civil War, led to 1 million + tourists every summer), my mom used to make us play tourist on the weekends and we (my sister and I) hated it. If I had to go back to Gettysburg and do the suggestions in this book, I’d still hate it. So I took Ellie the Elephant off on an adventure around Phoenixville, our current home of the past 6 years.

Ellie and I did adventures #3 Fly By Night, #8 Memory Lane, #23 Plastic Challenge, #27 Counter Tourism, #32 Movie Magic, and #43 Alternating Travel. In addition to the challenges mentioned, we gave into the Stars Hollow-y nature of Phoenixville and attended the local festivals that we usually avoid like the plague. We learned a lot about the town, and I learned a lot about myself and how I experience different places.

All in all, it was an enjoyable, interactive adventure book, but there were definitely adventures that were not quite applicable towards small town life – the book skews pretty significantly urban.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $17.99 • 9781787013582 • 208 pages • published July 2018 by Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet’s Website

Everyday Adventures on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Everyday Adventures

Everyday Adventures

Bookish Tuesday

Favorite Beach Reads

Since I’m at the beach, I figured I should do a beach reads post! I tend to gravitate towards YA fantasy for quick reads (my goal is always a book a day and I usually get it) and books that I know I’ll love. (All pictures taken at a beach)

1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

A fun heist set in a winter climate is the perfect book to chill you off on a hot day in the sun!

2. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

You can never go wrong with Tony in any season, but especially worth a read this summer.

3. Everland by Wendy Spinale

A fun Peter Pan inspires dystopian fantasy, Everland is readable in a single sitting.

4. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

One always needs an SJ Maas book for the beach!

5. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo is always a favorite.

Contemporary, Fiction, New Adult

Hey Ladies! by Michelle Markowitz & Caroline Moss

I asked the publisher for a copy of Hey Ladies! because it seemed like a book I could really relate to – the lead up to my wedding was filled with many email chains.

Synopsis

Hey Ladies! is a laugh-out-loud read that follows a fictitious but all too familiar group of eight 20- and 30-something female friends for one year of their lives. Told through a series of email chains, text messages, and illustrations, this book takes you along for the roller coaster ride of holiday celebrations, book clubs, summer house rentals, wedding showers, Instagram stalking, brunches, breakups, and, of course, all the inside jokes and harsh truths that only best friends share.

Review

Let me say that I am the target audience for this book. I am the exact same age as the character, a newlywed, literally, this book was written for me. And yet, I absolutely, unabashedly hated it with just about every fiber of my book loving soul. The crap these women pulled is akin to that of women in their early 20s. It rang eerily similar to my experiences as a bridesmaid at 21 and 22. And I’m no longer friends with the brides of those weddings because of behaviors they exhibited that were oddly similar to those of the characters in this book. Women approaching 30 don’t have time for that crap in our lives – we cultivated and culled our friend lost years ago to eliminate the toxicity of such relationships. It’s not realistic.

You can tell me I’m not a trustafundarian in NYC but I can promise you my sister-in-law is, as are a decent number of my friends and they would certainly no longer be friends with these women. Not a single one of the characters is sympathetic or relatable to the modern millennial woman. I read the whole book because I was hoping, against hope, that maybe, just maybe, we would see some semblance of character growth, but alas, it was not to be.

Last but not least, I’m personally sick of gimmicky books – books written entirely in Gen Z (not millennial) language makes me a bit nuts. Stop with the overuse of acronyms and short handed language. If someone writes a book about my generation, whether the be members of it or not, I expect some semblance of relatable characters. This book fails on that count.

Rating: 5 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.99 • 9781419729133 • 272 pages • published May 2018 by Abrams Image • average Goodreads rating 3.47 out of 5 stars • read in July 2018

Hey Ladies! Website

Hey Ladies! on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Hey Ladies!

Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction, Photography/Art

Am I There Yet? by Mari Andrew

For a month when I didn’t finish many books at all, this one was a much needed read. Despite having a wonderful trip to London, I feel like my life is in need of a shakeup and Mari’s book was the perfect read to complement this feeling.

Synopsis

In the journey toward adulthood, it is easy to find yourself treading the path of those who came before you; the path often appears straight and narrow, with a few bumps in the road and a little scenery to keep you inspired. But what if you don’t want to walk a worn path? What is you want to wander? What if there is no map to guide you through the detours life throws your way?

This guide to growing pains and growing up by the illustrator, writer, and Instagram sensation Mari Andrew brilliantly captures the heavy feelings and comical complexities gathered on the way to adulthood. From creating a new home in a new city to understanding the link between a good hair dryer and good self-esteem to dealing with the depths of heartache and loss, these tales of the twentysomething document a road less traveled- a road that sometimes is just the way you’re meant to go.

Review

My parents married before at 24 & 26, they not only had, but had built with their own hands, a house that was finished before my mom came home from the hospital with me at 28, have had the same occupations since they finished high school (Dad) and college (Mom), and were able to provide just about everything my sister and I desired our entire lives. There were rough patches of course, they’re no longer together, but their lives were shaped by a different time, a different era.

To compare my life to my grandmothers’ lives is even more starkly contrasted. As millennials, my sister and I are mostly self sufficient, but there are definitely times when we’ve had to delicately ask for help. Our lives have been shaped by a very different era, and will forever be marked by the Recession of ’08. We will spend most of our young adulthood renting, we will postpone having children, if we have them at all, and we may not have substantial savings accounts until we are well into our 40s.

But that’s the path our lives have taken. It’s completely different than our parents, even if we wanted to measure up against their life paths, we can’t. That world doesn’t exist anymore. And while this idea isn’t exactly what Am I There Yet? delves into, the theme is close – your life is your life and we all live our lives differently and have to follow our own paths in order to carve out some semblance of self identity. If you’re looking to find some inspiration to be yourself, and even more importantly, to know that you’re not alone in feeling like your life isn’t following the prescribed path society seems to prefer, take a look at Am I There Yet?

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $19.99 • 9781524761431 • 192 pages • published March 2018 by Clarkson Potter Publishers • average Goodreads rating 4.1 out of 5 • read in July 2018

Mari Andrew’s Website

Am I There Yet? on Goodreads

Get a Copy of Am I There Yet?

Classics, Fiction, Mystery

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Summer is here which means it is once again time for my annual Agatha Christie! This year it’s The Body in the Library, the second in her Miss Marple collection.

Synopsis

It’s seven in the morning. The Bantrys wake to find the body of a young woman in their library. She is wearing an evening dress and heavy makeup, which is now smeared across her cheeks. But who is she? How did she get there? And what is the connection with another dead girl, whose charred remains are later discovered in an abandoned quarry? The respectable Bantrys invite Miss Marple to solve the mystery… before tongues start to wag.

Review

As this is my third Agatha Christie, and also the third detective/series I’ve sampled, I’ve come to the conclusion that my enjoyment of her work is not just a fluke as exemplified by my delight in Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None. Now I just need a Tommy & Tuppence book and I’ll have read one of each of her series and a stand alone. Though I’ve been greatly struggling with The Secret Adversary so we’ll have to see if I’m a fan of the T&T series as well.

The Body in the Library follows a similar structure to Orient Express in that the crime is committed before the book even starts (as opposed to None) and the book is spent trying to solve the crime. Miss Marple is lovely and funny and charming, as are her friends who often enlist her help to solve crimes, as Mrs. Bantry does in The Body in the Library. As a character, despite not actually getting too much “page time,” readers get a sense of who she is and what she values.

Christie’s plot and pacing are masterful as ever, the twists abound, and while you may think you’ve solved the mystery as quickly as Miss Marple, I promise you there is always still one more twist lurking in the shadows that you probably missed. I recommend The Body in the Library just as highly as Murder on the Orient Express and And Then There Were None.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $13.99 (though Harper Collins are jacking up Christie prices with each reprint) • 9780062073617 • 224 pages • first published in 1942, this edition published April 2011 by William Morrow Paperbacks • average Goodreads rating 3.85 out of 5 • read in June 2018

The Body in the Library on Goodreads

Get a Copy of The Body in the Library

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Bookish Tuesday

Favorite Books Set in the UK

It’s been a crazy week. I haven’t actually finished a book in over two weeks, and didn’t write my last two scheduled reviews… and I’m getting ready to leave for London on Tuesday to spend some quality time with my sister. Needless to say, my head is spinning a bit with everything that needs to be done both at work and at home before I go. But I just can’t stop thinking about how great it will be to actually take a trip in less than a week. So for that reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about my favorite UK based books. Some of my favorites (seven) are below, in no particular order, and all titles link to the review!

1. The Royal We by Heather Cox & Jessica Morgan

Basically, Will & Kate fanfiction, but an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Setting: Oxford & London

Royal We

2. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Could this list be complete without Harry Potter? No, I daresay, it could not.
Setting: Scotland, London, various countryside locations

Harry Potter (2)

3. The Montmaray Journals by Michelle Cooper

While the first book in the series doesn’t take place in the UK, the entirety of the second and third books do so it is very worthy of inclusion on this list!
Setting: Primarily London, various countryside locations

Montmaray

4. All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Not only does the first book take place in Oxford in the present day, the second takes place in Elizabethan England!
Setting: Oxford, London, historical London, various countryside locations

Discovery of Witches

5. The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

Set in an idyllic Scottish town, The Bookshop on the Corner is one of my favorite books about books.
Setting: Rural Scotland

Bookshop on the Corner

6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

I cannot wait to see this movie, will it please hurry up and come to the US already?
Setting: Guernsey, London

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7. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic features not just one London, but three! The original London is set during the reign of mad King George, known to us colonials as the king we fought against for independence, the other two are parallel magical Londons with a third waiting in the wings.
Setting: Historical & Alternate Universe Londons

Darker Shade of Magic

Non-Fiction

Dear Tony

It’s been two and a half days since the world lost Anthony Bourdain and I still haven’t fully processed what this loss means not only to me (because that would be selfish), but to the world as a whole. I know it’s not my usual review for Sunday, but, well, it felt necessary for my grieving process.

Dear Tony,

It’s been 2 days since you ripped a hole in the world. Did you know how much you are loved? Did you know how much you were respected? Did you know just how big of an effect your passing would have on the entire world?

I don’t blame you. People do things for many reasons and often times they do things that they haven’t thought through. But your loss is one that will be felt worldwide, even by those who didn’t realize what an effect you had on them until the moment you were gone.

As a literary and cultural icon, and especially as a cultural ambassador for the US, we need you. We needed your voice to help everyone understand just how big the world really is, and yet similar we all are.

We miss you. We need you. We can’t contemplate a world without you and your unique voice offering a perspective that so many Americans need in their lives right now. I break out into tears every time they see your books sitting on my bookshelf, every time I walk past I think about your influence on the world and how we won’t have any new Anthony Bourdain books to look forward to. The literary world won’t be the same without your voice.

I didn’t know you, but I will miss you. I will miss you every time I try a new food, explore a new country, meet a new person. I will miss you. Those who loved you will certainly miss you. We will all miss you. And we can only hope that you have found some peace.

Bookish Tuesday

Meeting Authors, Round Two

In the last few months I’ve been incredibly lucky to meet some spectacular authors and I can happily report that they were all spectacularly down to earth human beings. Below is an ode to four amazing women.

Christina Lynch

Years ago, Ben, my husband, found a book at the indie bookstore I now work at called City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte, handed it to me and said he thought it’d be perfect for me.  I loved it – it’s one of my all-time favorite books (and probably one of the moments that confirmed that he totally “gets” me). Flash forward quite a few years to last week when I’m running an author event with Christina Lynch at the bookstore and low and behold, she mentions that she’s one of the two authors who wrote the book under the pen name Magnus Flyte. I proceeded to freak out, called Ben and he, in true spectacular husband form, found the books on the shelf (no small feat) and braved First Friday traffic in our town to bring them over to the store and make my reading life complete. Christina could not have been kinder and more gracious and thanked me for recommending her books (even if I didn’t realize it at the time!)

Christina Lynch

Deborah Harkness

One of my pen pals, Sophie, and I read Deborah Harkness’ All Souls trilogy when each book came out together. So when our event coordinator at the store told me that Deb was coming to the store, well, let’s just say I freaked out a bit. She’s an absolutely delightful human being and I can’t wait to run into her again in August when I run the All Souls Con 5K!

Deborah Harkness

L. E. DeLano

If you don’t already follow L. E. on WordPress, you should (her name is the link above). She is not only a wonderful YA author and the top selling debut author at the Towne Book Center, but an amazingly strong and inspiring woman. Every time she agrees to stop by the store and help me out with a project, plan her book launch party, or volunteer her time with our young writers, it makes my heart sing. Traveler was one of my favorite reads of 2017 and L. E.’s voice is a fresh addition to the YA fantasy realm.

L. E. & Devon

Laini Taylor

Continuing the theme of remarkably sweet and kind authors who are generous with their time, Laini Taylor! My coworker Jennifer and I have both read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and while we were wandering around BEA last week, we spotted her chilling in her publisher’s booth and, not wanting to take up too much of her time, but still wanting to say something, I simply thanked her for writing her books. She then proceeded to talk books with us for over 5 minutes (which in that setting is an eternity) and even agreed to a picture. An amazing lady she certainly is.

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