I very recently got out of a 5 year relationship (pass the Ben and Jerry’s, please!) and have already found that dating and being single has radicallyI very recently got out of a 5 year relationship (pass the Ben and Jerry’s, please!) and have already found that dating and being single has radically changed in the five years since I’ve been off the market. From dating apps to a heightened level of casual dating even at an older age… It’s basically pretty dismal and not for the serious looker. Comedian Aziz Ansari assesses the dating scene in, “Modern Romance”.
When I initially saw “Modern Romance”, I assumed it was a typical Hollywood memoir but focusing on love/dating and infused with Ansari’s humor. Boy, was I wrong! In “Modern Romance”, Ansari teams up with sociology professor Eric Klinenberg and presents data from over a year of research, interviews, focus groups, and psychological journals involving the current world of dating ranging topics such as how individuals meet, dating apps/online dating, texting, initial dating, breakup methods, etc. “Modern Romance” basically offers a journalistic and data-backed view of how and why the modern dating scene is the way it is.
“Modern Romance” is, perhaps surprisingly, very well-written and will satisfy readers of pop pysch or sociology. In fact, it is far better and than many books I have read in the similar strain. The text is accessible and fast paced, sparkling with laugh-out-loud Ansari humor and yet is solid with data and pictorial graphs which are not dummied down. I can’t say whether Klinenberg wrote more of the text or not but either way “Modern Romance” is quite solid.
A standout factor of “Modern Romance” is how ‘real’ it is. Everything discussed is something I have encountered first-hand or have heard about so it allows the reader to realize they aren’t alone in the garbage they are experiencing (although this could make the book somewhat dated in the future). Also valuable is that Ansari’s work isn’t gender biased and can be enjoyed by both men and women: it truly is an insightful look at dating.
On a similar note, “Modern Romance” isn’t strictly for single readers and is an enjoyable read even for those attached folks who simply want to see what is going on in the world out there while having a laugh. It helps that Ansari’s personality shines through the pages and not just his humor but his intelligence and relatable reactions.
There are some moments of repetition on specific passages and topics in which Ansari seems to drone on. This isn’t terrible and doesn’t weaken the pace too much but perhaps a stronger editor should have been used.
The concluding quarter of “Modern Romance” weans slightly in strength and isn’t as strong in terms of scientific data presented. However, Ansari ups the comedy on these pages which thus still results in strong reading. Ansari also offers a wrap-up/summary of the book which not only makes the text memorable; but is truly insightful and intelligent and takes the judgment of Ansari as a person to a new elevated level. “Modern Romance” also includes a list of notes (which are basically sources as they are not annotated).
“Modern Romance” is quite an excellent text combining humor with dedicated research bleeding with enlightenment. Having read quite a few celebrity-penned books; I can honestly say this is one of the top ones especially being a unique concept/topic versus a simple Hollywood memoir. “Modern Romance” is entertaining and informative and recommended for both genders: single or committed. ...more
Most children (and adults, alike) don’t realize that the famous character Winnie the Pooh was based on a real-life bear named Winnipeg (Winnie for shoMost children (and adults, alike) don’t realize that the famous character Winnie the Pooh was based on a real-life bear named Winnipeg (Winnie for short). Winnie was cared for by a veterinarian and soldier during WWI, Harry Colebourn. Colebourn, being relocated to France, had to give Winnie to the London Zoo for caring which is where author A.A. Milne’s son Christopher Robin fell in love with the bear, inspired bed time stories, and the rest is history. Sally Walker brings this inspiration to life, with help from illustrations by Jonathan Voss in, “Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie the Pooh”.
“Winnie” is a simple, charming book perfect for a quick bedtime story for very young children (preschool and kindergarten) and those just learning to read. Although the story and prose are easy to understand; Walker also provides substantial sentence structure making the story flow and captivating for children.
The wonderful thing about “Winnie” is its two-pronged success at entertaining Winnie the Pooh fans by teaching history and explaining the real-life inspiration behind the character while also showing children how to be loving, friendly, and a caretaker (based on the relationship between Harry and Winnie). This makes “Winnie” a positive lesson book and can even provide talking points on many echelons between parents and children.
Voss’s illustrations are somewhat ‘standard’ for children’s books in the usual watercolor paint style. However, the detail is inviting and sweet and thus fits the story quite well.
The ending of “Winnie” feels a bit abrupt and cut off but this is redeemed by the “Author’s Note” which presents real-life facts regarding Winnie and Harry. Sources are also listed while some authentic photos of Harry and Winnie grace the insides of the front and back covers.
“Winnie” is an easy-to-read charming book which sweetly explains to children the inspiration behind Winnie the Pooh. Although it isn’t the most memorable children’s book; it is still a positive choice for young readers and parents and is recommended for the kiddos and Winnie the Pooh fans. ...more
Although letter writing may seem like a thing of the past (I still write letters!); the practice was just emerging in the fifteenth century. Letters wAlthough letter writing may seem like a thing of the past (I still write letters!); the practice was just emerging in the fifteenth century. Letters written during this period give us an intricate look into the way of life as these words dictated local, political, and even international affairs versus just the nuances of personal life. The Pastons, a family living in England during the ‘Wars of the Roses’; wrote and kept a plethora of letters which are still extant today giving us an open window into both the family’s and England’s affairs. Editor Richard Barber gathers and presents these writings in, “The Pastons: A Family in the Wars of the Roses”.
“The Pastons” focuses on the content of the family’s letters presented in a pseudo-narrative strain whereby some letters are offered in full, others are quoted, and meanwhile they are explained or set into context. Therefore, Barber doesn’t simply offer a string of letters but instead provides illuminating reading which actually has a lively flow and pace.
The letters chosen by Barber initially highlight familiar and estate affairs versus that of political events but these are not boring and bring a vivid picture of the way of life. The reader will almost feel as though conversing with the Pastons, themselves. This then flows into more eventful letters describing quarrels, battles, law suits, and civil unrest in England. Not only did the Paston family lead eventful lives but they were also involved first-hand with the turmoil taking place in England.
“The Pastons” is perfect for both history lovers and HF fans of the period as the letters are accurate and factual primary sources which are ideal for fact checking but Barber also implores a narrative arc which makes “The Pastons” feel almost like a novel. The work is thus very accessible and easy-to-read versus being overly heady.
Adding some meat to the skeleton “The Pastons” is Barber’s inclination towards detective work and thereby meticulously debunking some hearsay reports. This truly adds to the essence of the work and results in an even heartier read.
The concluding focus of “The Pastons” is well-rounded with letters on various topics from love letters (so romantic!) to disease and politics. The actual ending, however, is quite abrupt. Fortunately, this is met with a pleasing Epilogue explaining the future of the family during subsequent reigns and a brief discussion of the discovery of the letters.
“The Pastons” is not an exhaustive look at the family or letters but it serves as an excellent introduction as well as a resource for the period. “The Pastons” is much recommended for history or even HF fans with an interest in the Wars of the Roses or of the Paston family (for they are often mentioned in texts on the period). ...more
There are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smThere are many key notes occurring during the Tudor Dynasty: from the Battle of Bosworth to Henry VIII’s wives to the Spanish Armada. Although on a smaller scale; there were also some other notable events such as rebellions and uprisings amongst the citizens of England (does the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ ring a bell?). Anthony Fletcher and Diarmaid MacCulloch take a look at these in, “Tudor Rebellions” (revised 5th Edition).
“Tudor Rebellions” begins with a chronology of events, a “Who’s Who” of key figures, and maps of the paths of the rebellions. These maps are definitely noteworthy as I have read hundreds of Tudor history books and don’t particularly recall such maps of the rebellions elsewhere. This flows into a psychological and sociological look into the setup of Tudor societies, what motivated them, and how/why the social classes were managed. Although a little bit dry for those not interested in such topics; Fletcher and MacCulloch’s writing is still accessible.
Following is a chronological description of the rebellions which took place. Each of these is assessed in strong detail per the events, people involved, where they occurred, doctrines produced, any legal complexities, etc. It is clear that the authors conducted abundant research and again, I have not seen such a presentation focusing solely on the rebellions elsewhere. Not to mention, “Tudor Rebellions” differs by focusing more on the side of the citizens and protestors versus that of the government illuminating a whole new perspective and outlook.
Each rebellion is followed by an analysis exploring various theories of the causes of these uprisings. The problem with this is that “Tudor Rebellions” reads like a college case study at this point. Fletcher and MacCulloch too often quote others and simply paraphrase previous studies versus offering their own input. This breaks up the work and slows the pace.
“Tudor Rebellions” provides a vast amount of information and detail in a small space. Although that is a good thing for those seeking facts about the period; it can also be overwhelming and requires small breaks in order to take it all in and absorb the material. It isn’t that “Tudor Rebellions” isn’t easy-to-read per se; but it isn’t super fast, either. It is somewhat deceiving based purely on length.
The third part of “Tudor Rebellions” attempts to explain why rebellions occurred logistically and economically in terms of high and low politics. Sadly, the thesis is lost, the argument is weak and the section is seemingly pointless in the text as it would make absolutely no difference on impact if it was absent.
Luckily, “Tudor Rebellions” is then refueled by part four which features 24 primary documents ranging from articles to letters written by both key figures and rebels which provide a delightful insight into these historical events. The only issue with these supplements are the spelling (kept in its original) which makes reading slightly difficult. Fletcher and MacCulloch then provide some notes and a list of sources, as well.
“Tudor Rebellions” is a great piece for an isolated look at the rebellions which took place during the Tudor dynasty. The coverage is informative and provides more depth than other books which merely mention these events. The text is somewhat slow; but it is certainly recommended for all readers who are interested in the Tudor times (but more so for those with some preexisting knowledge on the topic versus novice readers). ...more
One of the standout books from my childhood was a picture book teaching various breeds of cats by personif I won this book from Goodreads Giveaways
One of the standout books from my childhood was a picture book teaching various breeds of cats by personifying them into adult paintings. To this day, I still occasionally think of that book (and have it stored away in a box). I have found the modernized-adult version of this book in Susan Herbert’s, “Cats Galore: A Compendium of Cultured Cats”.
During her lifetime, Susan Herbert (d. 2014) was an established and beloved artist known for her paintings incorporating cats into famous theatrical scenes or fine art works. “Cats Galore” showcases her pieces in a colorful, full-color, hard-covered coffee table book encompassing charm, quirkiness, and a dose of silliness but all the while celebrating famous art.
“Cats Galore” is divided into three sections (Cats in Art, Cats on Stage, and Cats in the Movies) with each section being (mostly) chronological in the pieces which Herbert re-imagined using cats as the subjects. These feature captions with the title, date, and artist of the “real” piece. The striking feature of Herbert’s work is her ability to recreate a multitude of art styles and the focus on detail. Each painting is true to the original but with the inclusion of ‘cute’ details such as rats and mice in place of dogs or cats from the original paintings. Even the cat species chosen by Herbert for each painting makes sense and truly brings both her work and the original pieces to life.
Although “Cats Galore” features no text (aside from the captions); the book is charming, entertaining, and certainly fun for cat and art lovers. Some of the paintings will awe the reader while others induce a chuckle. Aside from adults, “Cats Galore” would also be a great way to introduce children to works of art in a friendly, warm way before showing them the real thing. Basically, “Cats Galore” is wonderful for all ages.
The final section (Cats in the Movies) is the portion most geared towards the general reader as the films are recognizable and part of pop culture. It is a strong way to wrap up the showcase of Herbert’s work.
“Cats Galore” is a silly but cute coffee tale book perfect for browsing for Herbert fans or cat lovers (it definitely makes a great gift for such readers). The presentation is strong and the content is quirky. However, the book is very targeted and not necessarily for everyone (I could see some people labeling it as ‘dumb’). Despite this, “Cats Galore” is an inviting book. ...more
Although the name Hans Holbein may not be one that every ‘Average Joe’ is familiar with; the chances are that one has seen the artist’s work (probablyAlthough the name Hans Holbein may not be one that every ‘Average Joe’ is familiar with; the chances are that one has seen the artist’s work (probably a la the famous painting of King Henry VIII). Stephanie Buck, Jochen Sander, and other collaborators come together to produce, “Hans Holbein the Younger: Painter at the Court of Henry VIII” to accompany the Hans Holbein exhibit at The Hague in 2003.
Even though “Hans Holbein the Younger” is an exhibit accompaniment; it stands on its own as a fine art coffee table book. The text begins with a foreword describing the exhibit which then flows into a brief biography of Hans Holbein written by Stephanie Buck. This biography is limited in scope and not in-depth but this is due to the lack of source material available versus inadequate research. Despite this lack of conclusive material; an introduction to Holbein is strongly founded.
“Hans Hobein the Younger” proceeds to focus on the “Darmstadt Madonna” which is considered to be Holbein’s masterpiece. Jochen Sander explores the inspirations, materials used, post-haste investigations into the techniques implored, etc. The text is easy-to-understand and accessible while also providing the reader experienced in art with jargon familiar to the field.
The main section of “Hans Holbein the Younger” highlights the catalog of Holbein’s work by showcasing 40 works. The glossy pages feature the works themselves, a caption of the size of the piece, materials used, date created, and current owner. This in itself provides sufficient viewer material for browsing in terms of a coffee table book. However, for though who do not find that to be enough; the accompanying text supplements well by exploring the full arc of each piece from the commissioning individual, to the production of the art, and ending with the current status of the art piece. The highlights are penned by alternating authors making the catalog fresh and without repetition but yet it is cohesive and seamless in structure.
The appeal of the catalog discussion is that not only does the reader learn of Holbein’s technique in each painting but also benefits from exploring the background of the subjects; adding value and depth to the painting studies.
“Hans Holbein the Younger” follows the catalog with an appendix including a history of Holbein’s drawings in Windsor Castle, a timeline of events in Holbein’s life sequentially occurring with major English events, biographies for the key figures in Holbein’s time (both the subjects in his paintings and politically in English history), and an extended glossary of key historical terms. These supplements add value and depth to “Hans Holbein the Younger” while also concluding the work on a memorable angle.
Wrapping up “Hans Holbein the Younger” is an enlightening section of annotated notes plus a biography.
“Hans Holbein the Younger” is an excellent coffee table art book which reveals the artist himself while beautifully glorifying some of his works. The book is strongly recommended for those interested in art, Holbein, and the Tudor period in history. ...more
Marriage and parenthood are commonplace in today’s cultures. Heck, it has been prominent since the dawn of human kind (well, not marriage in the certiMarriage and parenthood are commonplace in today’s cultures. Heck, it has been prominent since the dawn of human kind (well, not marriage in the certified sense but you get the picture). Yet, there is still a secretive, intimate aspect that occurs behind closed doors. Jenny Offill offers insight into a marriage and parenthood in, “Department of Speculation”.
Offill’s “Department of Speculation” calls itself a novel but it is actually a small 1-2 day novella providing an intimate and intense look at the marriage of a husband, wife, and co-parenting of their daughter (no names are given). “Department of Speculation” is written in a unique style combining a stream of consciousness mind-flow with a contemporary prose meeting a diary (even though the text is supposed to signify letters; they are not what readers traditionally call ‘letters’). The content/text is somewhat “all over the place” but makes perfect sense. It is remarkable how Offill makes jumbled thoughts sound so cohesive.
Elaborating on this, “Department of Speculation” is extremely relatable and truly envelops emotions that all readers have felt while dispersing the text with deeper philosophical meanderings which are simplified but will still result in the reader taking a moment to think and apply what has been read. Offill seems to truly understand human emotion and interaction.
Remarkably, “Department of Speculation” could be described as a “thin novella” with a flat plot (it is a character study versus a piece which contains a strong story arc); and yet it is a page-turner and is riveting in its own way. The novella definitely has something special about it which pushes the reader to continue and be immersed in the story. Offill successfully packs a lot of essence into a small space.
At approximately page 100, the narrative POV shifts from that of the wife to an omnipresent 3rd person. This stylistic detail is well-used as the marriage in the story falls apart at this point and this writing technique metaphorically demonstrates how ‘outside’ and alone one can feel intimately during such a traumatic event. Thus, “Department of Speculation” evokes raw emotion and feels quite real.
The final page of “Department of Speculation” reverts back to the wife’s POV which signals the returning strength of the wife and marriage (she was having a break-down previous). The ending is abrupt, however, and doesn’t wrap up the novella well enough instead feeling anticlimactic and like an afterthought. Perhaps this is indicative of life sometimes, though.
“Department of Speculation” is a quick but introspective read (best targeting females) which charms the reader but also leaves some “food for thought” in a unique, stylistic way. Offill’s work is recommended for those seeking a fast but meaningful read (also definitely suggested for those going through relationship issues). ...more
History has shown that sometimes one simple act can turn a city upside down and fuel a chain of events which leaves the populace aching to “figure itHistory has shown that sometimes one simple act can turn a city upside down and fuel a chain of events which leaves the populace aching to “figure it out” meanwhile trying to stick to their norms. Laszlo Krasznahorkai explores this idea in his novel, “The Melancholy of Resistance” translated from Hungarian into English by the gifted translator, George Szirtes.
“The Melancholy of Resistance” follows the fear of change and the unknown following the arrival of a circus into a Hungarian town. The residents’ lives are not only turned upside down; but they fear an underlying evil presence. Krasznahorkai introduces various characters (Mrs. Plauf, Mr. and Mrs. Eszter, Valuska, etc) as they uniformly interact and individually attempt to discern the changes made to the town. Using this theme and character set; Krasznahorkai examines philosophy and depth of thought making “The Melancholy of Resistance” multi-faceted and layered versus solely a singular-plot novel.
Krasznahorkai pens “The Melancholy of Resistance” in a strong stream of consciousness, ever-lasting flow style. In fact, the novel does not have chapter breaks and features a run-on sentence structure (lots of commas) which can be difficult to follow and makes it tedious to choose a pausing point. This certainly makes “The Melancholy of Resistance” not necessarily the ideal read (in terms of style) for everyone.
“The Melancholy of Resistance” begins strongly with a special ‘oomph’ and unique and vivid characters. Sadly though, this weakens at the halfway point where not only do the characters’ strengths decrease but the plot occasionally doesn’t make sense and the pace slows. It is a noticeable and drastic difference in comparison to the former half of the book.
Despite this weakening and somewhat jumbled storytelling; there is still strength in the heavy symbolism and portrayals that the various tangents express. The reader will experience many “ah ha!” –moments of enlightenment where it is clear that Krasznahorkai implores an angle of philosophy.
These philosophical meanderings reach quite an exciting apex before concluding the story in a surprising and more narrative way revisiting (almost) the beginning of the novel. The last pages, however, are bluntly: weird. Memorable, but weird.
“The Melancholy of Resistance” is a ‘different’, dense read which is “up and down” with a unique style not for everyone. However, those seeking surreal stream of consciousness novels will be pleased enough. Admittedly, it is not as strong as some other novels (and particularly Hungarian ones) in the same realm but despite its flaws, it will provide some satisfaction and intrigue. ...more
Many people error into thinking that short stories are easier to compose than a full-length novel. The opposite is actually true as the author has toMany people error into thinking that short stories are easier to compose than a full-length novel. The opposite is actually true as the author has to throw the reader into a character plot and arc which feels like it already began before the book opened. Basically, not everyone is cut out for this type of writing. Luckily, Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of the short story collection, “Birds of a Lesser Paradise” (which I loved); can procure such writing and therefore returns with a new collection in, “Almost Famous Women”.
In “Almost Famous Women”, Bergman pens 13 stories on the theme of real-life women who were ‘almost’ famous or lived as side notes in the lives of other popular figures. Each story is comparable to a mini- HF story which could spell disaster in terms of short story writing style but Bergman manifests it well.
As always, Bergman envelops the reader with depths and nuances that are smooth and unforced making the reader feel as though he/she is engaged in a longer piece of text. Each character and tale stands out on its own with vivid plots and voices. Bergman is a master at making stories come alive and fitting lots of morsels into a small space.
Uniquely, the stories in “Almost Famous Women” vary in narration with some being told in first person per the women described whiles others are depicted by those surrounding the women which successfully helps the stories not feel repetitive. Of course, some stories are longer than others and better constructed but overall the collection meshes together well.
Sadly, although the stories in “Almost Famous Women are interesting (especially for HF fans); they fail to evoke the emotional response that Bergman typically stirs up. There is just ‘something’ missing and the stories are not as finessed as “Birds of a Lesser Paradise”. Despite this, the stories are relatable and dramatic in imagery making them visual wonders dancing in the reader’s mind.
Bergman incorporates the “Easter egg” common to many short story collections in which the author mentions a character from a former story in another later on thereby connecting the stories in a novel plot-like way. Bergman doesn’t overdo this, however, and it therefore genuinely adds some spark to the pages.
The concluding stories in “Almost Famous Women” slightly deviate from the theme as “The Internees” is a couple-page tale not about an individual woman (but the most emotion-packed in my opinion) and “The Lottery- Redux” ‘covers’ Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” which most readers are familiar with (if you are not, then do so read it post-haste). The final story reverts back and wraps up the collection relatively well before Bergman then proceeds to list her inspirations for each story.
“Almost Famous Women” is a strong collection with lovely prose, structure, and detail which Bergman wraps around the reader with ease. The author’s work continues to standout (and I truly hope Bergman decides to write a novel some day). However, “Almost Famous Women” is simply not as enthralling as was expected based on “Birds of a Lesser Paradise”. Regardless, the collection is recommended for fans of short stories and of female-driven HF. ...more