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A Year on Ladybug Farm
Donna Ball
Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives
Alexander McQueen: The Life and the Legacy
Judith Watt

The Widow Waltz

The Widow Waltz - Sally Koslow Ugh- the heroin of this book is so unlikeable, and I don't believe that was the author's intent. I believe Koslow wants us to feel sympathy for Georgia Silver-Waltz as her husband has died suddenly and it becomes apparent that he has left her and their two daughters penniless, but it is so hard after reading her description of her husband (an adonis) and then herself (she was a real beauty and when she walked with her friends and heads turned she and her friends all knew they were turning to look at her - Oh Please) She has been living a life of privilege and ignorant trusting bliss up to that moment. It comes crashing in when she realizes her beloved husband has been living a double life. All the money is gone, the trust funds for their daughters are gone, the maid and driver are gone.... As she tries to find out where it all went, she discovers disturbing evidence of his "other life". The characters in the story all feel a bit cliche to me and or underdeveloped. Not Koslow's best effort.

The Marijuana Chronicles (Akashic Drug Chronicles)

The Marijuana Chronicles - Jonathan Santlofer This collection of short stories from this wonderful eclectic mix of authors is a pleasure best enjoyed with a nice tall drink of choice and perhaps a special brownie... My favorite of the lot was the very first story by Lee Child. I also found very interesting the last section of stories in the group of "Good and Bad Medicine" regarding the medical uses of marijuana. This collection was not nearly as terrifying overall as the Heroin Chronicles that I reviewed earlier. Its a kinder, gentler, laid back vibe suiting its subject matter. I can't wait to get my hands on the Cocaine Chronicles and the Speed Chronicles.

The Flamethrowers

The Flamethrowers - Rachel Kushner Well, I have been reading this book for some time now, and still haven't managed to make my way though it. It is tedious and rambling. The idea of this book turns out to be much more interesting than the actual book itself. I was looking forward to reading about the New York art scene in the late seventies with a dash of European glamor thrown in. This just didn't deliver. Much better books keep drawing me away so I am finally going to give up.

The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat

The Coat Route: Craft, Luxury, & Obsession on the Trail of a $50,000 Coat - Meg Lukens Noonan This book which follows the creation of a "bespoke" coat from learning about the rare vicunas animal (distant relative of the camel), almost extinct, which provides the most expensive wool in the world, to the world of specialty buttons and the beautiful silk used in the lining- no detail was missed. A captivating story of the many craftsmen and their skills - quickly dying out - that produced this most treasured of coats. At first I felt like Meg Lukens Noonan was doing for the tailor, and perhaps even the fashion industry, what Michael Pollan did for the farmers with his book The Omnivore's Dilemma. I was not so sure that was an accurate assessment though, when I read the rather jarring opinion of the author at the end of the chapter "The Tailor", when she responds (rather callously in my opinion) to the tailor who has just expressed his sorrow at the dying out of his craft with the words "But things change...I think it's time. The word changes and you have to change with it." .... What?! I was flabbergasted at her flippancy after this incredible journey she has just taken her readers on. My reaction to all I had been learning was more along the lines of: We must save this dying craft! Sigh...

The Heroin Chronicles (Akashic Drug Chronicles)

The Heroin Chronicles - Jerry Stahl This is a scary collection of stories. It should be required reading for high school - a sort of "Scared Straight" for potential junkies. The lengths the addicts went to to procure their fix was astonishing and heartbreaking. My favorite selection was the very first story "Fragments of Joe" by Tony O'Neil. it was the story of two addicts trying and failing to kick, who find themselves murdered in a drug deal gone wrong, except even death doesn't end their need to get straight. This whole collection made me want to search out each of these authors for further works. I now have to put the first two books in this series: "The Speed Chronicles" and "The Cocaine Chronicles" on my "To Read" list, and I eagerly await the next in the series: "The Marijuana Chronicles"

Grace: A Memoir

Grace: A Memoir - Grace Coddington Grace Coddington has given us a wonderful insider’s perspective of the fast changing world of fashion publishing along with a fascinating account of her salad days as a model through her rise to the position of creative director at Vogue, working side by side with Anna Wintour. The tale is a veritable “Who’s Who” of fashion photography in particular, and fashion publishing in general. It can sometimes be a bit like reading the liner notes and the detailed thank you’s on an album cover. Definitely a “Must Have” book for fashion groupies. Ms. Coddington’s life has not been completely carefree by any means and learning of her difficult but rewarding journey is an inspiration for perseverance. A reminder that even lives that may be perceived as “charmed” by some, are never without their challenges and heartaches. I loved the sweet hand drawn illustrations by Grace and the generous inclusion of photographs, both professional and candid. My only complaint was the tendency to jump around in the time line of events which could be confusing.

Drinking with Men: A Memoir

Drinking with Men: A Memoir - Rosie Schaap Drinking With Men is a memoir of a real life “Cheers” lifestyle lived by author Rosie Schaap. A native New Yorker, Schaap leads us on an intimate tour of her favorite New York bars and a few in other locals where she has enjoyed status as “a regular”. While telling us stories of the interesting characters she has known and firm friendships she has made, we come to understand that Schaap is a great character in her own right. I hope one day to chance upon the little bar in Brooklyn where she can be found tending bar on Tuesdays day shift and hope there might be an empty bar stool waiting.

The Blind Contessa's New Machine: A Novel

The Blind Contessa's New Machine - Carey Wallace Beautiful detailed descriptions of everything from the colors of a lake in springtime to the lace on a Contessa's dress fill this lovely small book. It is based on the true story of the blind woman who inspired the invention of the typewriter. Interestingly enough, some of the most elaborate "descriptions" come from the servant who is requested to describe elaborate pictures from a set of books given to the blind Contessa. The servant has a vivid imagination and invents elaborate scenes that are not actually in the books. I would have given it 5 stars but for the ending. I was bewildered by it and would have liked more of an explanation. I will leave it at that so as not to spoil it for you.

In Search of Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind

In Search of Cleo: How I Found My Pussy and Lost My Mind - Gina Gershon What a riot! Gina Gershon is a very funny writer. This very quick read takes you on the crazy train for a little while, then you climb down the steps at the end of line onto the platform of sanity and smile... Then go straight to the ticket booth and ask when the next Gershon train is leaving! If you have ever known the trauma of losing a pet (and there have got to be millions of you out there judging by the "lost cat" / "lost dog" posters on every telephone pole in the city...), this book is for you. I especially enjoyed the little sketches Gina includes of the various characters she encounters on her search for Cleo. All in all - the title itself is worth the price of admission.

It's All about the Dress: What I Learned in Forty Years about Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion

It's All About the Dress: What I Learned in Forty Years About Men, Women, Sex, and Fashion - Vicky Tiel Fashion, steamy Hollywood gossip from the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton era, and recipes, (recipes really? - yes really), how delicious!

Office Girl

Office Girl - Joe Meno, Todd Baxter, Cody Hudson In spite of how obviously Joe Meno has his finger on the pulse of the 20-somethings of this generation, I (being "of a certain age" shall we say), felt I could relate to the thoughts and feelings being conveyed by Jack and Odile. These two struggling artists trying to figure out how to live life in this world, while clumsily falling in love. Trying to figure out why no one seems to "get" them and realizing with mixed emotion that they have perhaps found someone who does... scary. And by the way - who determines what is relevant art?

Yes, Chef

Yes, Chef - The professional kitchen world is a brutal environment in which to make a living. Those that survive and thrive in that world are a very special breed - a subculture to themselves with their own set of rules all seem to understand without being talked about. This chef’s memoir is unlike any other I have read. It is more than just a peek behind the swinging kitchen door of a 3 or 4 star restaurant. It’s a look at the racial divide that exists in that world. A divide that exists even at a world-wide level, which I would not have expected somehow. A divide that Chef Marcus Samuelsson is determined to erase. Aside from that very strong message that was emphasized throughout the book, I was most impressed with Chef Samuelsson’s drive and determination that was apparent even from an early age. This along with immense creativity and a well developed palate are essential to success as a professional chef. It is a truly remarkable journey Marcus Samuelsson has been on from being an orphan in Ethiopia to cooking the Obama administration’s first State Dinner. One that I was completely swept up in while devouring the pages of this book as if I were at The Red Rooster enjoying a meal especially created just for me.

Beneath the Shadows

Beneath the Shadows - Sara   Foster While not without it’s flaws, this novel kept me engaged enough to stick with it to the end. When they receive an inheritance of a small cottage, a young couple, Grace and Adam, come with their baby daughter, Millie, to a small village where Adam had spent some time as a youth. Not long after arriving, Adam goes missing while out on a walk with Millie. Finding a note from Adam, explaining that he wants to have a talk with her and not to leave, Grace is waiting for them to return from their walk, getting progressively more worried as time stretches on, when she sees a dark shape on the front steps. She goes to investigate and finds the baby in her pram but Adam nowhere in site. The case quickly goes cold and Grace leaves the village with Millie, retreating into the loving, protective arms of her family. After a year, Grace decides to head back to the cottage to try to find answers about her husband’s disappearance. With local ghost stories and legends read about in a book she found in the cottage filling her mind, strange things begin to happen. And so we begin. While the story has an interesting premise of a young woman who believes her missing husband could not possibly have just walked out on her, (as seems to be the prevailing attitude of authorities, friends and family), and is determined to find answers, it felt more like reading a mediocre high school play than a well conceived novel. Many of the situations were cliche for the genre: the creaking cellar door that mysteriously swings shut on its own (with no inside handle) trapping the heroine, the grandfather clock that creepily stops then randomly starts up again on its own showing the correct time, even a scratching sound in the wardrobe, etc. My biggest complaint was the cellar door issue. If you are going to put something like that into the story - it has to be consistent. When Grace first entered the cellar, it specifically mentions that she let the door swing shut behind her. This doesn’t seem to be a particular problem except to scare her a bit since she is down there with a handyman that she doesn’t know. There is no mention of any difficulty in getting out of the cellar then, yet the next time it is mentioned that she needs to prop the cellar door open, since there is no inside handle, potentially leaving her trapped if it accidentally swung shut on her again. Um- how did they get out last time? Anyway, that is the last time we hear about the problem of the cellar door even though there are many trips in and out of the cellar. It seems the author just forgot about that detail. The random discrepancies in minor details such as this left me irritated and less than enamored.

Oxford Messed Up

Oxford Messed Up - Andrea Kayne Kaufman Wow! I loved Oxford Messed Up. This book provides a very real feeling, intimate look into the thoughts of someone who suffers with OCD. Kaufman has some personal experience with a family member who suffered with OCD and the journey to help has given her tender, insider knowledge. This story will no doubt advance people’s understanding and hope for sufferers of this mysterious and confusing affliction. Gloria’s constant companion Oliver, is a force to be reckoned with. Henry is the one unlikely person to take on the challenge, having his own self loathing issues and illnesses. The story of Gloria and Henry (fellow Oxford student and "loomate") is one of damaged souls finding strength, acceptance, and healing for their personal demons through their shared Van Morrison obsession, and their growing love for each other. Though each faces their own struggle with family disfunction and the resulting personal damage it invokes, they care for and believe in the other with fierce intensity that brings out the best in each other. I truly enjoyed the author's impressive knowledge of all things Morrison, as well as the Plath poetry references. I would recommend this book to those who have read Matt Ruff’s “Set This House In Order” (Also one of my top favorites) Andrea Kayne Kaufman has written a beautiful love story with damaged messed up people and it’s all any of us hopes for.

The Mirage

The Mirage - Matt Ruff I feel bad to give this only one star because I love this author. Unfortunately, this was not my kind of book. This is a political thriller/conspiracy novel. (Not my thing typically) The setting is an alternate reality or "mirage" if you will, where everything is opposite of the world as we know it. 9/11 has become 11/9 and the World Trade Center Twin Towers are located in Baghdad. Keep on with the opposites game and you can imagine where this is going. There are so many characters introduced, it was hard to keep up. Ruff used the tool of "Wikipedia" type entries between the chapters to give background which was a clever thing to do in theory, but ended up boring me more than informing me. Not Matt Ruff's best work.

One and Only: The Untold Story of on the Road and Lu Anne Henderson, the Woman Who Started Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady on Their Journey

One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road - Gerald Nicosia, Anne Marie Santos This book-on-CD was disappointing to me. While it was kind of interesting to get a fresh viewpoint of the whole Beat scene, I found myself growing bored with the constant repetition in Lu Anne's narrative. I think the author failed her in this endeavor. Although I understand that he wanted to stay true to Lu Anne's "voice", I still feel Nicosia should have done some serious editing to make it more listenable. In the end, I just wanted to read some Kerouac instead.