Get 8 Fab Books For Summer: Our July 2016 Book Review Roundup Is Here!
Reviews by Alison Blackman, Editor in Chief, advicesisters.com
In June, we published a book review with a whopping 10 new books for 2016. We usually wait a couple of months before publishing another book review roundup, but there were so many great books in the queue that I wanted to tell you about before Summer got away from us. Summer is an ideal time to take some “me” time and read, whether it’s on an e-reader or on an actual, print book. For this book review roundup, I am suggesting 8 books and I have provided links to purchase if you decide you can’t wait to go to a bookstore or need something asap for your trip tonight!
Here’s a brief rundown:
Three are cookbooks that focus a bit on “healthy”whether it’s the primary vegetable-focused, Meat on the Side: Delicious Vegetable-Focused Recipies for Every Day the more gourmet An: To eat: Recipes and Stories from a Vietnamese Family Kitchen or my new favorite for easy, fast and healthy: Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry: Easy All-Natural Recipes for Clean Eating in the Real World . These may inspire you and your weekend guests, of if you want to ease up on fats and red meat, or if you’re looking for a book to gift to a weekend host/hostess, or for one of the round of wedding showers.
We also are reviewing relationships books of various types. In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir is a can’t put it down autobiography of the daughter of Aldo Gucci’s who recounts her father’s enduring affair and love for her mother, and what it was like growing up as a Gucci “in the shadows.” Love Sex & Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive is a collection of relationship Q&A columns from syndicated columnist Neil Rosenthal. Dinner with Edward is a story about love, and friendship that will warm your heart.
The tragic airline crash that claimed the life of everyone on board an Air France Constellation focuses on the stories of some of the notable passengers in the book, Constellation.There is also the quirky and somewhat scary experiment of author Stacy Harshman who changed her hair color with wigs and went out to see what would happen and what she would learn about herself and others, in Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise .
Which of these spark your interest to be on your must-have reading list?
Who wouldn’t want to be part of the Gucci Family? It’s not just a fabulous name and perhaps all the leather goods you’d ever want . if that’s your birthright. But what, in fact, if you were a Gucci on the side? That’s the issue Patricia Gucci, the love child of Aldo Gucci and his paramour Bruna, has lived with all of her life. In the Name of Gucci: A Memoir by Patricia Gucci (Crown Publishing 2016) who has written a fascinating book about her life with her mother and her “beloved papa.” Patricia spent much of her life with her mother and Aldo as a secret (that really wasn’t all the secret), as his legal wife and family knew about his other family. It appears that Patricia waited until her father died to tell what appears to be a fairly no-holds-barred autobiographical story about her mother, her father, and the rest of the Gucci family.
While the romance between Aldo Gucci and Patricia’s mother, Bruna is hopelessly romantic, it is also terribly tragic. While times may have changed, “family acceptance” of illegitimate children really hasn’t. The love story between Patricia’s mother and father defies all sorts of logic, but the amazing thing is how it endured. As to the author Patricia Gucci, the luxury of being a Gucci really wasn’t handed to her. She fought her way into the family business but never was truly accepted by her half brothers, Aldo Gucci’s three sons. The book is so personal and gripping, I literally couldn’t put it down until I’d read it cover to cover. Call this beach and airplane reading because the hours will fly by. Not all lives are lived in secret, not all lives are lived in luxury, and not all lives are as they seem You’ll never look at the name Gucci quite the same again after reading this amazing book.
What do you do with all your Q&A columns if you’ve been writing them for 24 years? That’s a no brainer — you make them into books. Who doesn’t love to read about other people’s issues? Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Colorado with a syndicated weekly “Relationships” column that appears in a number of newspapers. I was curious to read this latest collection of Q&A columns is Love Sex & Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive by Neil Rosenthal (FriesenPress, 2014 ), a follow up to another collection of Q&A’s: Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship. LS&SW Keeping the Flame alive is a melange of advice to couples that supposedly will help them strengthen their relationships, no matter what their relationship stage or status. This hefty 294-page collection kept me amused (after all, who doesn’t like to read about other people’s issues)?
Neil writes well, but the way he writes is rather dated, especially if you are a millennial, or younger. For example, one of his readers writes that is attracted to bad boys and now she’s engaged to one who repeatedly cheated on her throughout their relationship and their engagement, and who admitted that he only gave her a ring to keep her quiet. Neil doesn’t see much of a future for these two and says so. But anyone with two gray cells in their head wouldn’t either. So telling her that her relationship is probably in trouble, is like…duh!
In my work for over 2 1/2 decades as an online advice columnist and purveyor of advice to the lovelorn, I have come to realize that what makes really useful relationship advice isn’t stating the absolute obvious as Mr. Rosenthal mostly does, it’s seeing the proverbial forest for the trees and making suggestions to a reader to make them think about why something happened and how not to repeat it. A woman who likes bad boys usually has other issues that keep her in a loop of bad relationships with unsuitable suitors. Why not suggest she think about that, as well as to give back the ring, and run?! On my advice website Leather and Lace Advice, I sometimes do find it amazing how many people seem to be really myopic when it comes to their own issues, and Mr. Rosenthal does apparently speak to a lot of them, since he’s been picked up as a syndicated advice columnist for so many years. If you are under age 40 you may not relate to him that well, but I can’t take anything away from his experience. I’d agree with much of what he says, but I’d dig a bit deeper.
If you are looking for something cute, a feel good with a feel good and empowering message, pick up Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent (Algongquin Books 2016) It’s a bit on the theme of Tuesdays With Morrie, where someone older helps someone younger to learn about life and love and acceptance. In This book, a woman with a troubled marriage connects with a 93-year old man who has just lost his wife of 69 years. The woman is the author of the book, Isabel Vincent, a reporter, and writer. Over the course of their burgeoning friendship which takes place over many dinners, Isabel and the man (Edward) learn how to rekindle their lives while cooking and tasting and bringing new friends together. The author has a way with words, and really, it is an homage to the special friendship she developed with Edward. Yes, it’s a bit too sappy but you can’t help but feel those warm, puppy dog feelings for this lovely group of lonely people. If you don’t feel uplifted after reading Dinner with Edward, you’ve missed the point. Go back and read it again!
Every family has a story, and it seems that families that foster great cooks, and that also cook together, are very interesting. The An family has built a restaurant empire and the matriarch, Helen An is hailed as the “mother of fusion. She was inducted into the Smithsonian Institute for her signature styles that blend Vietnamese, French and California influences. Together with one of her five daughters, Jacqueline An, they’ve created a unique cookbook An: To Eat: Recipes and Stories from a Vietnamese Family Kitchen by Helen An and Jacqueline An (Running Press 2016). There are 100 recipes with beautiful color photographs in this book, and they’ll literally make your mouth water. Whether you want to try them or not is a different story. A lot of the recipes call for a teaspoon of this, a teaspoon of that, with ingredients that you might not use again for a while (e.g. fish sauce , mung bean sprouts or Taro stems, or tamarind juice ). If you’re going all out for Vietnamese cooking, the investment in the basic ingredients won’t bother you, but otherwise, you might just “order in” or “dine out.” That takes nothing away from the excellent photography and the family stories that are lovely to read. It’s a perfect book to bring to your weekend hostess or a more adventurous amateur cook.
I was interested to read Constellation by Adrien Bosc (Other Press 2016) because it’s always gripping to hear about air and sea tragedies (e.g. our review of The Midnight Watch: A Novel of the Titanic & the Californian in our last book review roundup. In October 1949, an Air France Constellation en route for New York crashed into a mountain in the Azores, killing all forty-eight aboard. Adrien Bosc, a well-known literary figure in France though a first-time novelist, has written about this particular air tragedy, but it’s not a book about aviation, or even really about the crash. It’s kind of a melange of what happened, briefly, and a dry notation about some of the more interesting and esteemed individuals who perished onboard. Perhaps it flows more mellifluously in French (the new paperback version I read was translated by Willard Wood into English) but the prose is just so flowery and pompous. I was disappointed that there really wasn’t all that much about the airplane or why it might have crashed, and even though it’s a novel, no photos of the plane or the real-life people the author is chronicling. The personal stories may be fascinating, but honestly, they aren’t written with a lot of excitement. It’s easy to forget that this was a terrible air disaster with lots of questions that might have raised a lot of eyebrows then and now. When you are writing about the deceased, you need to make them come alive for your reader Alas, Constellation, failed not once, but twice. On the plus side, if you like reading about unique figures, the slim paperback will keep you interested enough through a short plane ride.
I never thought I would admit this, but I finally found an all-natural book of healthy recipes that I love! The minute I received a review copy of Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry: Easy All-Natural Recipes for Clean Eating in the Real World by Lisa Lillien (St. Martins Press 2016) I inwardly groaned, as so many of these books are just tofu and smoothies. But this book really is more about easy and quick, satisfying, real food. Whether you want to lose weight, eat healthier, or just eat better, the recipes in this book (which is just $20 in paperback) will help you do it, with easy recipes that have little to no added sugar, that are high in protein and fiber, made with all natural ingredients (ok, you can cheat on this if you want), and the most important thing, they are easy to make when you’re busy and hungry.
There are more than 100 gluten-free recipes and 80 vegetarian recipes ad well as 40+ recipes made with 5 ingredients or less. I can’t imagine how I lived without “growing oatmeal” that looks insanely good, and fills you up for an entire morning, or other breakfast treats with photos that will make your mouth water, but that you can make so you don’t have to grab a greasy bagel from a cart. The author lists all the pertinent calorie and nutrition information along with prep and cook time and serving amounts. She even makes cauliflower stackers that look delicious and a 10-minute sweet tomato and shrimp stir-fry that could be your next dinner special. Get this book for yourself, and one for your BFF, the new graduate, a wedding shower gift….it’s five stars.
Do blondes really have more fun? Will men steer clear of redheads? Are brunettes considered more friendly and approachable? Can you change your entire personality simply by changing your hair and/or hair color? This is something many women have pondered, but Stacy Harshman in her new book Crowning Glory: An Experiment in Self-Discovery Through Disguise by Stacy Harsham (Andarina Publishing 2016) actually had the guts to go out in public wearing different wigs and outfits, taking on different personas, to see what would happen. She even hired an “observer” to see what people’s reactions were to her. The book is fascinating, although the book could have used a good editor to perk up the writing, and the photographs are obviously “selfie” quality.
What is so great about Crowning Glory is the honest account of how each different wig and hair color made the author feel and act, and how people reacted to her as literally, different personalities. It is shocking how taken we all are with the external. It certainly made an impression on the author (but I won’t give away her thoughts, you can read the book for that).
Many of us, myself included, may wake us some days and wish we could be someone else. Maybe we step out looking totally different and play at a different persona on Halloween, but few would do it “for real” on a daily basis, as a reporter. It takes real courage and a keen sense of adventure to step out of yourself every single day to write a book about it. Still, if you’ve ever thought “I’d like to do that but I never would, reading the diary-like format of Crowing Glory is almost like going along on the “experiment” with the author. She’s the one who accepted the unknown the fear and consequences that go with such a risky journey of self-discovery. She did it, so we can immerse safely ourselves in what she did, and learned, and perhaps take a few grains of wisdom away with the story.
For those who like meat, but just a little bit of it, or who wonder what to serve vegetarians at a dinner party along with the carnivores, I suggest Meat on the Side: Delicious Vegetable-Focused Recipies for Every Day by Nikki Dinki (St. Martin’s Press). This beautifully illustrated cookbook that just launched in June makes vegetables the main focus of more than 100 recipes. While it’s not strictly a vegetarian cookbook, there are enough “veggie delights” for vegetarians to consider purchasing the book, especially if they are part of a family where meat eating is still a desired option.
As a self-admitted lazy cook with not a lot of time or patience, I get a bit turned off when I see recipes that require a lot of ingredients or where you have to make two separate recipes to make one dish. For example, the Burned Carrot Sandwich looks lovely, but after I’ve baked the carrots for 60 minutes and toasted baguettes, I don’t want to have to make a spread in a food processor for it as well. It might not be difficult, but Oh! The cleanup! Prep times are not included in these recipes nor are calorie counts.
I loved the book for recipes such as Red Cabbage + Raspberry Grilled Cheese. This was not only easy, quick and innovative, I was inspired to make other versions. Spaghetti Squash with Tiny Chicken Meatballs are just the kind of thing that a busy mom might be able to serve kids who wouldn’t eat their veggies any other way. If there may be something you don’t have or you might need some tips on how to make the recipe easier or mix it up a bit, Nikki has “Keep It Simple” notes at the end of each recipe — a nice touch. There may be a few too many photos of Nikki (star of Season 9 of Food Network Star and co-host of the Junk Food Flip on the Cooking Channel) but if you want to eat more vegetables and frankly, they bore you, this book will get you excited, seeing and cooking with veggies in a whole new way.