The Great Fire of London in 1666 was devastating to the city and people of London even by today’s standards nevertheless during a time when modern recThe Great Fire of London in 1666 was devastating to the city and people of London even by today’s standards nevertheless during a time when modern recovery and logistical efforts were nonexistent. How were ‘everyday’ citizens and their businesses/economies affected by the flames? Hazel Forsyth explores the answer in, “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker: Surviving the Great Fire of London”.
Forsyth’s “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is a glossy-paged, coffee table book divided into two main sections with the first meandering on the actions taken (emergency efforts, evacuations, loss inventory) by the Great Fire (versus an actual history of the fire); while the second provides an A-Z trade list depicting personal losses of everyday citizens and merchants. The entire text is backed by an extensive amount of primary, legal, and administrative sources. Forsyth’s thesis therefore attempts to showcase the individualistic effects to everyday life. Sadly, this goal of “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is, although unique, lost.
The first half of “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” provides readers with some insight into the magnitude of the fire and the remarkable efforts by the city of London to recover and recuperate. Some of the reactions to the catastrophe are quite noteworthy based on the time period and this heightens Forsyth’s impact.
Forsyth uncovers some never-before mentioned facts (including many court proceedings/fines against London citizens post-fire which were clearly unjustified) making for compelling reading. Unfortunately, this section is somewhat rushed and would have done better being more fleshed out.
The second section, highlighting the individual trades, are not at all what one would hope for or expect in “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker”. Forsyth’s portraits of the trades are inconsistent with some mostly describing pre-fire economies while others mostly comprise of inventories in paragraph form. Nothing is truly illuminated and one almost reacts with, “What is the point, here?” as the text does nothing other than show what jobs existed during the period. The relation to the fire is predominately lost.
Although Forsyth’s writing is scholarly (and her research is solid); perhaps “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is too academic as it has no zest and little reader appeal. Basically said, “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is quite slow and boring.
Graphically, “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” has redemption value in that it features photos of actual pieces and archives from the collection of the Museum of London making the reader feel as though one is walking through a museum exhibit (the text would –and probably is—a great museum supplement). The colorful photos are detailed and striking accompanied by descriptive captions.
Forsyth provides the final pages of “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” with some (lightly) annotated ‘Notes’ and a few listed sources for further reading.
Even though “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” has a unique thesis; it lacks in presentation and execution. The text isn’t memorable and the reader will not be emotionally moved in any way. “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker” is quite dry and only recommended for those who must read everything concerning the Great Fire. ...more
Jane Grey will forever be immortalized as the “Nine Days Queen” (it was actually 13) having ‘usurped’ the crown from Mary Tudor before Mary decided shJane Grey will forever be immortalized as the “Nine Days Queen” (it was actually 13) having ‘usurped’ the crown from Mary Tudor before Mary decided she had enough of that and snatched it off Jane’s head (figuratively). This tragic young lady, beheaded for her role at age 17, was more than just a martyr: she had poise, intelligence, decorum, and religious fortitude. Nicola Tallis, the resident historian of the Alison Weir Tours (which should hint at Tallis’s writing style); brings Jane’s life to the limelight in, “Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Jane Grey”.
Tallis kicks off “Crown of Blood” by exploring the Tudor blood lines and environment surrounding the birth and childhood of Jane Grey. This is an introspective start that is great for those not familiar with the topic but it does seem that Jane is instantly bypassed when she is supposed to be the star of the text. This is also solidified by Tallis venturing off on tangents not truly discussing Jane until several chapters in.
Despite this initial “Where is Jane?”- moment; Tallis immediately intrigues the reader with both her clear abundance of information (which, again, is great for those new to the topic) and her writing style which is lovely and descriptive but professional. Tallis has strong writing skills that stick out with “Crown of Blood” being her first foray into the publishing world but also among some of the history books from her peers, in general. There are some speculative statements rife with “could have” and “should have” jargon but these are not overwhelmingly so and therefore, do not weaken the text as a whole.
The major issue with “Crown of Blood” is that there is no new information. The pages consist of everything about Jane and her life that readers will already be familiar with many times over and thus, “Crown of Blood” simply recaps the information. To remedy this, there are occasional moments when Tallis attempts to debunk myths or rumors and break down facts with strong research and sleuth work. Tallis infuses “Crown of Blood” with primary sourced-document block quotes and direct quotes from figures in the text. This strengthens the credibility of “Crown of Blood” and gives a revealing look into the historical matter.
As expected, the pace heightens when Jane gains the crown…and loses it. Tallis tells the events with bravado both informing the reader of the history while also providing entertainment. Although new facts are STILL not uncovered; “Crown of Blood” explores the incident well with a strong voice and firm research. On the other (negative) hand, at this point, Tallis puts too much of an emphasis on what Jane felt and thought without any source material backing these statements. It can be said that “Crown of Blood” is too much like a HF novel, in some ways.
Despite Tallis’s speculative tone; she also reveals Grey as formidable, bold, courageous, and mature for her age shedding new light on Jane for those who merely viewed her as a pawn-victim. In fact, “Crown of Blood” makes her too saintly and it is obvious where Tallis’s biases lay.
The concluding chapters of “Crown of Blood” have a strong impact with a detailed retelling of Wyatt’s Rebellion and an emotional rehashing of Jane’s death. This is followed by a look into the social/pop history impact of Jane Grey plus the aftermath on her close family bring the text together in a homogeneous and memorable way.
“Crown of Blood” includes compelling appendices discussing portraits (or lack there) of Jane, her final theological debate before execution, and a list of places to visit in England to walk in her footsteps. These are not only unique but useful to the reader. This is also supplemented by a well-annotated notes section and a bibliography. These are gold mines for the readers and not to be skipped over!
Tallis’s first history writing is quite remarkable as it stands on firms legs with its approach, writing style, and credibility. Yes, there isn’t any new information surrounding Jane (and tangents ensue); but, even despite this, the text is strong and perfect for a new reader to the topic and is a great refresher for those already well-versed. “Crown of Blood” isn’t perfect and is certainly similar to Alison Weir’s works (so, not suggested for those anti-Weir readers) but it is certainly recommended for those interested in Jane Grey and the Tudor period. Basically: it is good for what it is and meets its purpose. ...more
In the fifteenth century, England and France’s interactions were anything but friendly. These icy conditions bring to mind to mind such terms such asIn the fifteenth century, England and France’s interactions were anything but friendly. These icy conditions bring to mind to mind such terms such as Hundred Years War, Wars of the Roses, King Henry V of England, etc. All of these eventually paved the way in later time to the Tudor Dynasty through Henry’s Queen Catherine de Valois and her entanglement with Owen Tudor of Wales. Rosemary Hawley Jarman brings this period to life in, “Crown in Candlelight”.
As a direct result of this novel’s summary blurb, many would expect “Crown in Candlelight” to be a tale dripping with romance highlighting the story of Katherine (as called in the novel) and Owen complete with terms of endearment and fluff. Luckily, this doesn’t describe “Crown in Candlelight” at all, as Jarman rather focuses on the history of the period, politics, and the efforts of Henry of England to conquer France. Jarman is known for her historical detail (her novels are more history than fiction) and “Crown in Candlelight” follows this mold brimming with luscious historical fact.
Elaborating on this, Jarman’s prose and language is rich and beautiful, truly making the reader feel that they are a part of the plot while the tapestry is woven versus simply being a spectator. In a sense, “Crown in Candlelight” feels more like a history lesson than character-driven but Jarman’s lovely storytelling still helps quicken the pace.
In usual Jarman fashion, “Crown in Candlelight” is divided into sections versus chapters and is often told from various viewpoints/characters. Being that these characters are well-developed and structured; this doesn’t make “Crown in Candlelight” confusing and instead adds layers to the story.
Also featured in “Crown in Candlelight” (and common to Jarman’s writing) is her penchant for including snippets of foreign languages (not translated) and plot twists involving magic and folklore. One may argue that this is realistic as it was commonplace during this period but it starkly stands out in a piece that is more politically-based.
Jarman’s coverage of the Battle of Agincourt is tightly-wound with emotion and truly brings it to life without overwhelming the reader and allowing the historical facts to sparkle (but with a novelization to carry it through). After this, “Crown in Candlelight” takes a personal approach and brings to light Katherine, Henry, and Owen with a fresh appeal and original view which sticks out from other similar-topic HF novels. Sadly, Owen Tudor doesn’t receive as much attention as one would hope, though.
“Crown in Candlelight” shifts to extend the romantic plot but this is slightly thin and isn’t as strong as former parts of the novel. On the other hand, Jarman intriguingly makes small comments foreshadowing future events during the Wars of Roses (outside the scope of the novel) which are small ‘Easter eggs’ for those readers familiar with the history. It is a nice touch.
The final quarter of Jarman’s novel is noticeably rushed, choppy, and disjointed from the rest of the piece. It feels like Jarman had to quickly end the story and the text reads like separate trains of thought/fragments instead of a cohesive plot. This weakens “Crown in Candlelight”. However, the actual ending has a burst of emotion and also indicates the legacy of the characters so the conclusion isn’t a total wash-out.
“Crown in Candlelight” isn’t as strong as “The King’s Grey Mare” but it is still a rich novel rife with historical fact and vivid descriptions. Jarman’s novels stand the test of time and are much better than many similar HF novels, today. “Crown in Candlelight” is suggested for HF fans of the Wars of the Roses and those interested in Owen Tudor. ...more
If you are unfamiliar with actress Anna Kendrick; then just search for the films: “Pitch Perfect”, “Up in the Air”, and “Twilight” on good ‘ole NetfliIf you are unfamiliar with actress Anna Kendrick; then just search for the films: “Pitch Perfect”, “Up in the Air”, and “Twilight” on good ‘ole Netflix. You can also listen to her voice in, “Trolls”. Oh, what the heck… Just Google her! For everyone else and fans of Anna Kendrick; she offers her first memoir and glimpse into her life with, “Scrappy Little Nobody”.
The large majority of celebrity memoirs are either poorly written, have a ‘woe-is-me’ – attitude, or try too hard to infuse the pages with sob or drug stories (usually all of the above). Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody” doesn’t really fit this prerequisite mold. Kendrick does follow suit by recalling some stories from her life and career… but they are quite ‘light’. “Scrappy Little Nobody” fails to dive deep into Kendrick’s psyche or reveal any fascinating information therefore not allowing the reader to get to know her. In her defense, Kendrick does admit to being ‘square’ and to not being the most open person; but this results in a somewhat flat and boring memoir.
In line with this, much of “Scrappy Little Nobody” covers topics like boys, dating, and fashion which makes the memoir feel like that of a high school student versus of a 31-year-old woman. Don’t get me wrong – Kendrick is not lacking intelligence but if this is all she has to speak of then she is underdeveloped (or holding back way too much). Kendrick doesn’t even attempt to at least tie-in these stories to adulthood or offer what she has learned from them.
On the other hand, language-wise, Kendrick does employ solid writing chops which result in strong text as opposed to the poor skills of her peers in their respective memoirs. Issues do arise with pacing as the timing is very inconsistent, choppy, and up-and-down. Kendrick peppers the text with some of her dry sarcasm fans adore from her Twitter account; but it is far less than expected. “Scrappy Little Nobody” is not really a comedic piece (*sidenote: this is ironic as the book was a nominee for “Best Humor Book” in the Goodreads Awards 2016).
Although Kendrick fails to really open herself or her life up in “Scrappy Little Nobody”; one thing is clear: Kendrick is very relatable and down-to-earth. She is not elitist and didn’t come from an already spoiled and rich background. This makes Kendrick likable and on the same level as her readers. In fact, female readers living in Los Angeles will especially understand her references.
One of the top perfunctory actions taken by both Kendrick as a person and as an author; is the noticeable absence of name-dropping other celebrities (except in the chapter describing award shows but that makes sense). In almost all Hollywood memoirs, celebrities seem to think their own stardom escalates if mentioning friendships, romances, or run-ins with other celebrities which is tedious and bluntly: annoying. Not to mention: ineffective. Luckily, “Scrappy Little Nobody” does not fall victim to this strategy.
Noticeably, the final chapters of “Scrappy Little Nobody” are more humorous and revealing. Kendrick’s writing becomes more comfortable and as a result, the memoir as a whole becomes stronger (although one would wish the entire piece would be like this).
“Scrappy Little Nobody” ends well enough with an equation of comedy, emotion, and insight; thus being quirky like Anna, herself. It should be noted that unlike most memoirs which include a section of photo color plates; Kendrick opted to instead occasionally offer a black-and-white photo throughout the pages of the text.
Kendrick’s “Scrappy Little Nobody” is a fast (1-2 day) read which although is a constrained and modest look into her life; is well-written in the Hollywood memoir respect, providing entertainment and a few chuckles. Admittedly, it isn’t that memorable and readers won’t learn too much about Anna Kendrick but it is still enjoyable for her fans or those seeking a light, quick, filler read. ...more
Some of the most fascinating areas to ponder are those which break down and decimate the facets in life which we take for granted. These revelations dSome of the most fascinating areas to ponder are those which break down and decimate the facets in life which we take for granted. These revelations demonstrate how remarkable the simplest of things can be. What is one of the most common day-to-day, minute-by-minute actions we brush aside? Language and speech. By extension, the ability to swear and cuss like a sailor. Benjamin K. Bergen, a profession of cognitive science working with language; attempts to foray into the world of ‘fuck’ and ‘damn it’ in, “What the F: What Swearing Reveals about Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves”.
“What the F” is a very nuanced and complex work that is almost difficult to describe. Bergen’s pages are a mixture of pop psych, neuroscience, cognitive science, social behavioral studies, and linguistics. The issue therein is that these various aspects don’t necessarily combine in a seamless manner. “What the F” begins by discussing how swear words can be defined in the first place and whether or not they are culturally constrained before then exploring how swearing comes about, how our brains react, how swearing occurs in other mediums like sign language, etc. This is all very fascinating but the thesis isn’t clear which results in a scattered text that lacks proper direction.
Also impacting this is the heavy technical jargon. At times, Bergen is conversational in his tone while other times he forgets that the average reader is not a language scientist and has no idea what the eff (see what I did there?) he is talking about. “What the F” is a piece which requires genuine reader attention to truly grasp the material and perhaps only a small section at a time. Otherwise, confusion can ensue.
“What the F” is noticeably filled with much repetition and speculation. This is namely because the topic is not as notably researched and is difficult to define. Despite this, Bergen does include experimental results and studies which solidify the material (both primary and secondary studies).
Approximately, halfway through, “What the F” becomes both easier to digest (Bergen finds his writing groove) and much more enthralling. The language science explored is sort of in the “Why didn’t I think of that?!”- realm but also mind-blowing at the same time. It is obvious that Bergen has conducted a lot of research (7 years according to the author) and really knows the material. The text applies not just to swearing but language studies, in general.
There are clarity issues with charts/diagrams which can be a bit murky to decipher. Again, “What the F” isn’t necessarily always average-reader friendly. Bergen remedies this by ending every chapter with a summary wrap-up which some may deem as merely a page-filler; but it also helps review the latter pages.
The concluding chapters of “What the F” are less powerful focusing more on theory and discussion. Bergen’s thesis and vision is once again obscured making for a light impact and less-than-memorable ending. Much of “What the F” at this stage can be skimmed.
Bergen provides the reader with a ‘Notes’ section (although not annotated) and a list of sources which encourages further research and review.
“What the F” is certainly a compelling topic which is also clever/novel in respect to its angle and absence of over-discussion on book shelves. However, it isn’t what it claims to be as it is more of a socio-linguist piece than a psychological or neuroscience one. Plus, it does embody flaws like tangents, repetition, and overly technical text. Regardless, “What the F” is an interesting read and suggested for those interested in language and its connection to both the brain and society.
**Note:My rating was torn between a 3-star and 4. On first, standalone sight, I would be enticed to give “What the F” 3 stars but in comparison to other books on surrounding book shelves I have read and given 3 starts to… I went with a 4. ...more
Stuart England during the reign of Charles II was rife with keynote figures and was entertaining, to say the least. One of these figures, his brotherStuart England during the reign of Charles II was rife with keynote figures and was entertaining, to say the least. One of these figures, his brother James (the Duke and next in line for the throne); had his own drama to deal with, made complete by his offspring Mary and Anne. Joanne Limburg focuses on Princess Anne in, “A Want of Kindness”.
High expectations surround “A Want of Kindness” as the book jacket summary raves with depth and the subject of Princess Anne is not often explored. Sadly, Limburg’s work is a gigantic let-down. Labeled as an adult-market novel, “A Want of Kindness” is best described as a historical fiction novel for middle school students with more flaws than can be noted. Limburg’s novel follows the life of Princess Anne starting as a child but it is lacking depth and nuances both in terms of the character and the story plot. Anne doesn’t standout, there is an absence of a character arc or growth, and her voice is passive. This prevents the reader from getting to know Anne fictionally or historically which results in a very bland reading. As aforementioned, this period in history is quite entertaining and appealing but “A Want of Kindness” manages to fall flat.
Limburg’s writing is also heavy with disconnected choppiness. Each chapter in “A Want of Kindness” is titled and basically serves as a vignette: short in text and storytelling. There is no smooth progression and neither is there a connection. The narrative therefore fails to truly have a point and there is no buildup. Although this could still ‘work’ if Limburg decided on a character study-driven piece; “A Want of Kindness” is not that either.
Adding to the middle school feel and disjointed nature are the alternating chapters with fictionally-produced letters ‘written’ by Anne (these are even presented in a different font). This is possibly an attempt by Limburg to drive the story and allow the reader into Anne’s head but quite frankly, it takes away from the already-lacking story. It feels like a narrator setting the stage but then with nothing truly happening.
There is also an issue with Limburg trying too hard to come off as literary and flowery but her metaphors and language are juvenile and come across like a student writing a creative story for a professor.
One a positive note, some of the events mentioned by Limburg as happening in Anne’s world (although not usually to her); are historically accurate and not fluffed up. Sadly, though, Limburg doesn’t expand on these and brushes them off.
It is evident that the main inhibitor of a strong story within “A Want of Kindness” is a lack of surmounting history resources regarding Anne. However, a truly potent HF author can take few facts and elaborately create a novel world from them which Limburg did not. Basically, there is no story here.
Only one—literally just one – emotionally upright moment occurs in “A Want of Kindness at approximately 200 pages in (Anne’s children become ill with small pox and perish). This is the only time Limburg’s writing is evocative and worth reading. If the entire novel was as strong as this spot; than it would have been another novel, entirely.
Much of the latter chapters of “A Want of Kindness” are very repetitive and merely traverse Anne’s many pregnancies and miscarriages. It is the same over-and-over and even this topic which could induce reader empathy is thin and one-layered reducing the plot even more.
The finality of “A Want of Kindness” is much of the same both regarding the story and lack of impact. The ending is not momentous and overall none of the book is memorable. Plus, Limburg doesn’t include an ‘Author’s Note’ to discuss the historical liberties taken or sources used.
“A Want of Kindness” struggles in composition leaving a disjointed mess in writing style and a story lacking any pizzazz. The novel is written on a juvenile level and best targeting juveniles. Aside from being a teen read, there are genuinely no points of merit with “A Want of Kindness” and I would not read from this author again. If you are seeking a look at Princess/Queen Anne; you won’t find it here. Skip! ...more
Remember the little girl in the films, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Matilda”, and the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street”? That charming little lady was Mara WilRemember the little girl in the films, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, “Matilda”, and the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street”? That charming little lady was Mara Wilson. This pint-sized former actress is all grown up into a beautiful young lady and explores her life in, “Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame”.
Not only is Mara Wilson all grown up but her memoir “Where Am I Now?” is equally a more mature version of the Hollywood celebrity-penned memoirs. Wilson eschews a chronological retelling of her life to instead focus on individual tales/experiences. This is common place in recent Hollywood memoirs but Wilson even takes this a step further and focuses on the emotional lessons and psychological merits versus just describing a child actress’s life. The result is an in-depth and nuanced text that flows smoothly.
Wilson’s writing is terrific both in terms of styles and grammar/language. Admittedly, most memoirs written by her peers should have been ghost written due to the authors’ poor writing skills but Wilson has this down to a –T. The memoir flows with a cohesive narrative almost like a novel bringing the events to life. Not to mention, although Wilson doesn’t throw her inner psyche or personal details in a reader’s face; one will still get to know her behind the curtain.
“Where Am I Now?” has a lovely raw quality that is both gratifying and compelling. Wilson explores her OCD and panic/anxiety disorders in a real and vivid way making it understandable even for those readers who do not suffer from these (I, sadly, do). Yet, Wilson doesn’t promote pity or have a ‘woe-is-me’ attitude making the discussion a learning experience instead of a crying session.
One of Mara’s repeated habits of reciting dialogue and verbatim conversations (with full names of those people involved) adds to the narrative-like feel. However, either Wilson has an uncanny memory or “Where Am I Now?” can only be taken with a grain of salt at certain points because remembering conversations from your childhood leaves a reader with some doubts.
Frustratingly, the latter chapters of “Where Am I Now?” departs the former depth of the text and errs more on the shallow end of the spectrum offering trivial subjects like sex and dating (with the exception of a chapter on the death of Robin Williams). At this juncture, it feels a little like Wilson steps into the typical Hollywood memoir mold and it takes away from the strength of her presentation.
The conclusion of “Where Am I Now?” is equally without a heavy impact and it is also abrupt in comparison to the memoir, overall. This doesn’t diminish the value of the entire piece, luckily, but it could have been stronger especially with Wilson’s writing talent being quite clear.
Those seeking a section of photo plates won’t find it in “Where Am I Now?”. Wilson includes sporadic black and white photos throughout the text but these aren’t very revealing nor do they occur often.
Despite some flaws, “Where Am I Now?” is a well-written, intelligent, and interesting departure from the usual Hollywood celebrity memoir. Even if not necessarily a Wilson fan; readers will gain some food for thought and topics to ponder. Thus, “Where Am I Now?” is recommended for both Wilson fans and readers of Hollywood memoirs, in general. ...more
Being funny and making audiences laugh can be a hard job – but somebody’s gotta do it! Who better than current ‘it-girl’ actress/comedian Amy Schumer?Being funny and making audiences laugh can be a hard job – but somebody’s gotta do it! Who better than current ‘it-girl’ actress/comedian Amy Schumer? Amy takes a moment to side-step from her on-stage persona to talk about her life in, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo”.
Amy Schumer’s latest project can easily be chalked up as a celebrity memoir but it is slightly off course from that. Rather than give a straight-chronological retrospect; Schumer instead presents various essays describing experiences in her life. “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” ends up being more complex than expected and Schumer genuinely tries to shares lessons she’s learned with readers.
Schumer’s tone is conversational and familiar but still imparts a healthy prose and intelligence (it isn’t dummied down like many celebrity-penned pieces). However, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” is noticeably not as comedic as one might expect. Yes, there are some chuckles and laugh-out-loud moments; but overall it is more nuanced and not necessarily a comedic work. This might disappoint some of her readers/fans but on the other hand, it allows readers to see another side of Amy.
Even though Schumer is very relatable; there is a certain essence missing in her storytelling that feels like she is holding back emotions. Of course, Schumer reserves the right to privacy but there is a certain wall and filter that would improve the writing if knocked down.
In line with her peer’s memoirs, Schumer switches up “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” with various writing styles such as lists and excerpts from childhood diaries. It is suspected, though, that these diary entries have been doctored because for instance the entry from age 13 is not at all how a 13 year old writes (in terms of language and grammar). Either way, they add a ‘fun’ element to “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” that promotes further reading.
The longest chapter of “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” is quite informative of the life of a comedian on tour revealing this lifestyle for the reader. This helps to unravel some of Schumer’s personality as it expresses her work ethic and drive.
As “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” progresses; it begins to feel as though Schumer tries too hard to be motivational and preachy. Don’t misunderstand: Schumer is a great, loving gal but it doesn’t feel smooth in the book and is somewhat awkward in presentation.
Naturally, Schumer addresses such topics as her weight, sexuality, women in Hollywood, and her advocated gun-control awareness. Although these are serious topics; the concluding chapters bring back some humor and comedic notes. Schumer then wraps up the writing on a tight, summarized end.
Even though I am a huge Amy Schumer fan and “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” isn’t terribly written; it is honestly not as humorous, entertaining, or revealing as one would expect. The essays are more like blogs and don’t always come together in a comprehensive and cohesive way. “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” is certainly not one of the worst celebrity-authored pieces but it is also not one of the best. Regardless, it is still suggested for her fans who want to know a little bit more about this gal. ...more
Matzo bread, Matzo ball soup, kugel, kreplach… you don’t have to be Jewish to be familiar with these foods. In fact, you have probably even consumed oMatzo bread, Matzo ball soup, kugel, kreplach… you don’t have to be Jewish to be familiar with these foods. In fact, you have probably even consumed one or more of these during your lifetime. Jewish /Yiddish food goes beyond the confines of Jewish communities and has an impact on social cultures and norms. Michael Wex explores the social history of this cuisine in, “Rhapsody in Schmaltz: Yiddish Food and Why We Can’t Stop Eating it”.
In “Rhapsody in Schmaltz”, Wex attempts to chronicle Yiddish food by focusing on a specific type per chapter. Although this breakdown makes sense; the ease ends there. “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” is rather dry and all-over-the-place, leaving the reader wondering what is the point what Wex is trying to prove. The pages of “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” read like a college term paper with an overuse of quotations and sources which make no sense and Wex just “throws” into the text. This perhaps may be because I am only a quarter-Jewish but I asked a full-Jewish friend to read the text and he was lost, as well. Meaning that it is Wex’s writing style and presentation which is in question.
Despite this propensity to boredom, there are encounters with fun facts and a certain level of learning which can fuel conversations and be worth repeating. Therefore, the reader does learn a little from “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” among the confusion.
Wex is sometimes repetitive in his Yiddish food study and also veers off on tangents which add to the slow and discombobulated state of the text. Wex seems to catch himself when doing so but perhaps an editor should have checked this slackened pace.
There is no doubting that Wex concluded a fair amount of research on the topic and his very informed; the issue is his habit of discussing every detail which, again, makes “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” very collegiate. Wex also overly focuses on the linguistic origins of dish names and their changes throughout the time which isn’t the most provocative text for the average reader.
The concluding pages of “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” provide an increased pace (less detail) but also feel rushed with an abrupt, non-memorable ending. Wes does include a bibliography useful for further reading.
Quite frankly, “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” is a slow, monotone read which informs here and there but retaining this information is difficult with the slow pace. Wes doesn’t meet his social history thesis nor does he truly explain “why we can’t stop” eating Yiddish food like his book title states. “Rhapsody in Schmaltz” is only suggested for Jewish individuals or those very interested in the topic. Otherwise this book should be skipped. ...more
Generally, most people enjoy music. Of course, some more than others; but when is the last time you heard someone say that they hate music? Probably,Generally, most people enjoy music. Of course, some more than others; but when is the last time you heard someone say that they hate music? Probably, never. So, the question is why on a psychological or biological level do we enjoy it? John Powell wondered this same question and attempts to explore it in, “Why You Love Music: From Mozart to Metallica – the Emotional Power of Beautiful Sounds”.
Powell’s “Why You Love Music” is a conglomerate of pop psych, theory, science (neuroscience), and cognition studies focusing on the various aspects of music -- from lyrics to musical roles and everything in between. Powell explores and breaks down the reasons why we enjoy music in terms of brain and mental responses. Initially, “Why You Love Music” begins in a slightly overwhelming manner without Powell introducing the topic which makes his writing style feel cluttered and loud. This evens out as Powell finds his footing and the reader becomes used to the presentation.
One will find that “Why You Love Music” is more of an explanation-type book where Powell (who is not a psychologist) explains the experiments/results of the field without having done any first-hand primary work. Not to mention, Powell clearly strives to capture the general pop psych audiences so the text serves as an introduction versus truly diving deep into the topics discussed. This does result in a very accessible and easy-to-understand piece expressed in laymen’s terms versus technical jargon that satisfies the average reader; but, it may not be suited for an expert.
On the other hand, Powell certainly knows what he is talking about and understands the material himself (Powell has a Masters in Music) which results in efficient educating of the reader with both ‘fun facts’ and more elaborate hypotheses.
Even though Powell’s writing is enjoyable; sometimes he is ‘cheesy’ and tries too hard to be a comedian which seems to be a common trend in pop psych books. This may cause some rolling of the eyes among readers.
One of the major positives of “Why You Love Music” is its comprehensive and all-encompassing look at the topic. Powell traverses all angles and focuses thoroughly on one topic before moving on but knows how to fit a lot of material into the work making “Why You Love Music” a compelling read.
It should be noted that some of the examples used in “Why You Love Music” are directed at British readers and may be slightly lost on the American audience. This, however, doesn’t negatively affect the book too much.
At the 125 page mark, “Why You Love Music” completely changes gears leaving the psychology behind and instead focuses on music theory, composition, what makes music, and the presentation of music. Not only does this subject change make this half of Powell’s work feel like an entirely new work but as does the pace which slows drastically for those readers not interested in these technical aspects. This is not cohesive and brings “Why You Love Music” down as it is no longer even related to the title.
The concluding chapter of “Why You Love Music” summarizes the first half of the book (thereby answering the title) but, at this point, some of the pizzazz is lost by the second half digression. Powell never truly recovers some of the lost readers and thus the ending is not memorable. Powell offers an appendix he terms, ‘Fiddly Details’ which explains timbre, post-skip reversal, harmonizing, hidden harmonies, and scales & keys. “Why You Love Music” also includes some suggestions for musical listening and viewing, references, and some notes.
“Why You Love Music” is an interesting book which begins strongly exploring the psychological connection to music in an accessible and even slightly humorous way. Sadly, Powell takes a detour in the second half which is not as appealing for less technical readers and gravely effects the overall readability of “Why You Love Music”. Even those interested in the second half have to admit that it doesn’t have to do with the book title and is more like Powell’s previous book, “How Music Works”. Either way, “Why You Love Music” is not terrible and is suggested for pop psych readers who are lovers of music searching for a quick read (about 2 days). ...more