Category Archives: Bonus Book Reviews

Bonus Book Review: “The Unknown Unknowns: Bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted” by Mark Forsyth

The Unknown Unknowns

Bear with me while I continue to clear the books off my end table and reading list…

The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the delight of not getting what you wanted A is by Mark Forsyth, the same author of one of my previous reviews Short History of Drunkenness. It was the subtitle of this book that drew me to it after my recent tour of used bookshops in Baltimore. I love going in bookstores…especially used bookstores. But I digress…

I guess I should have paid a little more attention to this books description before buying a paperback copy online, as it appear in my mailbox in a thin brown envelope! The book measures just about 4″ x 5″ and is only 23 pages long. It reminds me of those little word search books you find out the checkout counter at your local grocery store.

Still, it’s an amusing little book that’s probably just as witty in the $1.99 ebook version as it is in the $5.94 + shipping paperback version! Mark Forsyth has proven to me with both the books I’ve read of his that he is capable of tickling my funny bone in his British humor sort of way. If you’re bored and have an extra $1.99 in your account, download a copy.

 

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Bonus Book Review: “Bella Figura: How to Live, Love and Eat the Italian Way” by Kamin Mohammadi

Bella Figura Kamin Mohammadi

So here I am, behind on my reading again. The past 2 1/2 weeks have turned my world askew. Not only did my son’s girlfriend move in with us while they save to buy a house, my husband got laid off from his job last week. My quiet reading time is now very limited due to the extra people needing my attention. But, I’m determined to get caught up with the ever growing stack of books on my end table and in my e-reader, so let’s get right down to it…

Bella Figura: How to Live, Love, and Eat the Italian Way by Kamin Mohammadi is another ebook I requested from First to Read.  According to Amazon, the book is 6″ x 8.5″ and is 304 pages (it was 290 pages on my iPad). It’s due to be published on May 8, 2018.

Bella figura translates to ‘beautiful figure’ in Italian, but means a whole lot more than that. It’s about taking care of yourself and showing your best ‘you’ to the world at all times. It’s one of the many lessons learned by author Kamin Mohammadi from her cast of real life characters that she meets after she left her high powered job in the publishing industry in London, England, to move into a friend’s apartment for several months in Florence, Italy to write a book.

Bella Figura is very much a chick book. I’ve never read Eat, Pray, Love (or seen the movie), but I can assume that it’s very similar and would appeal to the same crowd. I enjoyed the book and looked forward to reading what Kamin experienced in her year long, month to month adventure in the Tuscany region of Italy. Each month is presented with a new Italian word, lesson, seasonal food and adventure as Kamin learns to live the Italian way. And as someone who spent two weeks in Italy in 2000, I can tell you, it’s nothing like America or the U.K. The lifestyle and people are unique and even I have been known to say that I would love to retire to the countryside of Abruzzo, Itlay. One of the few drawbacks of this book is that Ms. Mohammadi tends not to translate some of the conversations she has with her acquaintances, leaving the reader to guess what was said even when there is very little context to go on. I can only recommend that you’re either familiar with the language or keep your computer open to Google translate when reading this book. I have no doubt that I will be recommending it to my grown daughter who spent a semester in Rome during her college years as I think the lessons contained within it’s pages are for every woman. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Bonus Book Review: “A Short History of Drunkenness” by Mark Forsyth

Last month, I was informed that the Blogging for Books program that sent me free books to review would be coming to an end this month. They recommended another program called First to Read which is basically the same deal, but I can only get the books in ebook versions. I’m really not a fan of ebooks. I’m old fashioned and want to actually turn pages and display my books on my bookshelf. Still, I decided to take the plunge and this is the first book I chose. On another note, I’m probably going to go off topic for the next couple of weeks as I give my brain a little rest from the Beatles so I can dive into more Fab Four adventures later this month with a clear head.

A short history of drunkenness Mark ForsythA Short History of Drunkenness: How, Why, Where, and When Humankind Has Gotten Merry from the Stone Age to the Present by Mark Forsyth is 256 pages long and will be released on May 8, 2018, but is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and other online booksellers. It is exactly what it says it is and it is as witty as it sounds!

A Short History of Drunkenness starts at the very beginning of the invention or discovery of alcohol. Though there is no record of exactly when man found out about the inhibition releasing effects of fermented berries, Forsyth followed the clues and research the best he could to draft the story of early man’s drunken life. The author goes on to tell the history of the early Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Vikings and other cultures beliefs and rituals involving alcohol, and that of their Gods of beer, wine, gin and other libations.

This book follows the chronological history of intoxication from early man to American prohibition. I had hoped when I offered to review it that it would include modern day stories, like that of John Lennon getting drunk in L.A. and walking around with a sanitary napkin adhered to his head in the 1970’s, but unfortunately it did not (I’m sure if Mr. Forsyth had tried to include drunken stories of the rich and famous, the book would have been proven to be way to long!). Still, the lack of our living gods of music didn’t take anything away from this book.

The one drawback to this book is when the author (who’s born, bred and still living in London, England) breaks into a strange tirade in the last pages of the Prohibition chapter at the very end of the book:

All non-Americans agree that America is stupid. For that matter, quite a lot of Americans agree that American is quite peculiarly stupid, like an embarrassing cousin at a family wedding. American stupidity is famous, and of a quite special kind. It’s a unique sort of stupidity that allows them to put a chap on the moon…

There’s more, but I’ll let you read it. It’s a little offensive and I’m not sure why we deserved such a tongue lashing. I mean we (and by that I mean not me!) did elect a stupid teetotaling President who says and does stupid things and is hated by most of the world, but… I guess I can forgive Mr. Forsyth his discretions since the monarchy has never seemed to get over the fact that they no longer own the colonists! And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Bonus Book Review: “21 Ways to a Happier Depression” by Seth Swirsky

21 Ways to a Happier Depression: A Creative Guide to Getting Unstuck from Anxiety, Setbacks, and Stress seth swirsky21 Ways to a Happier Depression: A Creative Guide to Getting Unstuck from Anxiety, Setbacks, and Stress written by Seth Swirsky was released on April 4, 2017 and is just 112 pages from start to finish. If you’re wondering where my current obsession with Seth Swirsky came from, I’m going to have to lay the blame on Paul McCartney’s stepmum Angie McCartney! Angie interview Seth on her Tea Fix Tuesday show last week and now I can’t seem to get enough Seth in my life (but fear not, my Hollywood crushes only last about 2 weeks!) You can watch Angie’s interview with Seth below.

As I said above, this book is only 112 pages and most of those are filled with watercolor pictures and quotes. But don’t let that deter you from getting a copy of this book for either yourself or someone you know who suffers from depression or has tendencies to just get in a funk now and then. Seth has tackled his own occasional depression and his clients (he holds a masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University) with the 21 very simple suggestions that he used to write this book.

This book is an easy read…almost too easy in its writing. There were times when I felt like it could be written for a child if the topic weren’t so adult in nature (though, I believe parents could use some of the techniques to help a depressed child). Another slight flaw is that several of the suggestions involve going out and spending money to help bring you up when you’re down…and for a lot of people, that’s just not feasible, which (I believe) might make a depressed person sink even lower. To Seth’s credit, none of his spending suggestions are outrageously expensive, but I have to wonder about a single mother on government support with little to no spare income? None the less, I will be keeping my copy of 21 Ways on my nightstand where I’ll be able to pick it up when I need a little pick me up from the daily grind. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 

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Bonus Book Review: “The Book of Joe: The Life, Wit, and (Sometimes Accidental) Wisdom of Joe Biden” by Jeff Wilser

The Book of Joe Jeff WilserI’ve never wanted this blog to be political and I still don’t, but when I saw this book available on the Blogging for Books site, I really wanted to read and review it. The only thing I’m asking of my readers is that you do not make political rants in the comments sections.

The Book of Joe: The Life, Wit, and (Sometimes Accidental) Wisdom of Joe Biden by Jeff Wilser  is 204 page simply written biography of Joe Biden, the Vice President for 8 years under President Barack Obama. It’s not a very deep book, that’s not what the author intended. Instead, it reads like a tribute to a great man who has dedicated almost a half-century to public service.

Joe Biden’s young life was a struggle due to his studder. But that affliction is  just one of the many challenges that Joe would encounter throughout his life. It is a life of struggle, pain, and tragedy mixed with accomplishment, victory and love. Love not just of family, but of fellow man including his enemies and those on the other side of the political aisle.

I loved reading this book. It opened my eyes to so many things I never knew about our former Vice President. It’s not all mushy gushy…it’s the real story, even with all of Joe’s faux pas, mis-spoken words and wrongs. And let’s not forget the bromance he has still going on with Obama to this day and all the memes that just keep coming long after the party is over in White House.

And just to make this book ‘on topic’, in 2018, Joe Biden published his summer playlist which included ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles. And for that, and all the reasons above…

I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

 


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Bonus Book Review: “New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante’s Naples to Hammett’s San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World”

New York Times FootstepsWait! Before you change screens or move on to something you think may be more interesting than another review from my BloggingForBooks collection, bear with me for a few minutes and hear me out on why I chose to read – The New York Times: Footsteps: From Ferrante’s Naples to Hammett’s San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World.

Let me start by asking my readers: Have you ever gone to New York City to see the Dakota building where John Lennon lived and died? Have you ever walked through Central Park to see the Imagine circle in Strawberry Fields? How many of you have gone (or hope to go) to Liverpool to see the Cavern Club or the houses that John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew up in? How many of you have looked up the meaning behind a Beatles’ song and wondered what inspired John, Paul George or Ringo to write it?

I personally have gone to the house near me where Jim Croce once lived. And his grave is less than 2 miles from my house. I visit it often. People make pilgrimages to France to see Jim Morrison’s grave or to Woodstock to see where history was made with the largest most peaceful concert that world had ever seen.

Well, if you’re also a lover of interpreting words, books and songs, or just finding the meaning in the world around us, than this book will truly fascinate you.

Footsteps began in 1981 as a short-lived series of articles in the New York Times. Writers writing about writers is what this 290 page collection of 38 articles is all about. The reporters retraced the steps of famous authors such as Twain, Hemingway, Kerouac, Fitzgerald, Lovecraft, Shelley, Yeats, Byron and the Brothers Grimm. Imagine that Lake Geneva in Switzerland was the back drop to Mary Shelley writing Frankenstein or that the blinking green lighthouse from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was an actual lighthouse on the French Riviera. This collection of articles lead you down the streets, alleys and waterways that were the inspiration behind so many of the great classic novels that we know today. Though I did find that a few of the reporters get a little side tracked in telling more about the city than the author that lived there, I looked forward to reading each new story. And for that reason…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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Bonus Book Review: “Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A Life Unstrung” by Min Kym

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym is another book from the Blogging for Books program. I chose this book because of it’s musical storyline and to give me a little break (and to clear my head) from all the Beatles books of late.

This is the true story of Min Kym who was born in South Korea, but her family moved to London for her father’s work when she was young. Still, the household remained respectful of their Korean traditions such as bowing to each other and the father eating first followed by the children and then the wife. These cultural difference would be at odds within Min’s psyche and would contribute and exasperate many of the struggles throughout her life.

Min was born a child prodigy of the violin. From the moment she picked one up, it became part of her and she would never let it go. Music schools, lessons, concerts, competitions were her life by the age of seven. By 21, she would meet the violin that would become her other half. A 300 year old, £450,000 Stradivarius that never left her side. Wherever Min went, so the Strad went in a case slung over her back. Until that fateful day 10 years later in a London cafè when 2 men would cause a distraction while a 3rd slipped part of her soul out a back door. Would it be found? Could she replace it with another violin? Could she continue to play without it?

I can’t say this is one of the best books I’ve read…the writing leaves a lot to be desired, but does get better the farther the reader gets into it. Still, this is a touching story of being a child prodigy and growing up in two very different cultures at the same time. I hope to someday be able to see Min play…

I rate this book, 3 out of 4 Beetles!

 

 

 

 

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