Tibet: Fear of Fear; Otherwise, Captive

With her dreadlocks and wide smile, Lateesha looked as if she wasn’t afraid of anything. But as she got ready to speak, her book propped open at the podium, Charles asked how anxious she was, on a scale of 1 to 10.

“At least a seven,” said Lateesha.

“Take it slow,” he said. “There are only a few people out there who can completely overcome their fears and they all live in Tibet.”

from Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Novel Approach to New York City

Novel Approach to New York City

Maybe I’d go back to New York at the end of it, maybe I wouldn’t. The thought of not having to fight so hard every day made me feel almost giddy. I had forced myself to love that place for so long. The idea that I didn’t belong there-that I couldn’t belong-had been so crippling that I’d molded myself into someone who did belong, sharpening my elbows and edges every morning before I left the house.

– from The One that Got Away* by Melissa Pimentel


*The blurb’s claim that this is a modern version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion is only true in the sense that if this book was written and you then put a gun to someone’s head and demanded to know which of Jane Austen’s books it was most like, your victim might say Persuasion.

So That’s What They Teach at Finishing School

So That’s What They Teach at Finishing School

Mrs. McKinnon’s classes were supposed to cover such essential topics as ridding your surfaces properly of bacteria and devising delicious dinner-party menus for a Muslin, a vegan, a lactose-intolerant, and a pregnant woman; however, with a bit of prompting, she usually diverted into more arcane waters, such as how to eat lobsters without licking your fingers, or how best to decline a marriage proposal on a pheasant shoot.

from The Little Lady Agency by Hester Brown

Subterfuge Isn’t My Forte: Mandelbroit

Subterfuge Isn’t My Forte: Mandelbroit

I came with an agenda, but I needn’t have bothered. Innocently, I glanced at Bubby’s bookshelves and remarked “Oh, is that New Kosher Cuisine?” As the conversation had been tangentially related to food, the comment wasn’t totally off the mark. Though the reason I asked was because I intended to leave with her copy of the cookbook in my possession.

“Yes,” said Bubby, “Do you want it?” No beating around the bush needed.

Possibly because she hasn’t used the book in my lifetime.

There was just one condition – Bubby – who claimed she’d never met a mandelbroit recipe she couldn’t ruin and who hadn’t cooked with sugar in decades, wanted that recipe copied out before she handed over the book.

Here’s the secret: bake the mandelbroit loaves at 350 for 20 minutes, then remove them from the oven, slice them up, and broil on each side for 30 seconds. Or more, if you prefer your mandel burnt. And since you have that, there’s no need for you to walk off with my copy of New Kosher Cuisine.

Even the Best Investigators Miss Things

Even the Best Investigators Miss Things

Detective Sergeant Hayes reached Fleet Street at half past eleven and decided to ask at the offices of The Times. The young receptionist was reading a paperback Christie and biting her nails.

“Detective Sergeant Hayes. Metropolitan Police. I do’t know if you remember – I was here earlier with James Wingate.”

“Different shift I’m afraid, sir. I would have been older and more of a man, probably.”

from Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars by Miranda Emmerson

Just Like Mommy

Just Like Mommy

Paper quality and font size were my Zaidy’s criteria when buying books for his grandchildren. Given that he only bought books from Goodwill, and had no interest in reading them, that was an excellent criteria. This resulted in classics such as Pigs in the House and Socks for Supper being mainstays of my childhood. His selections definitely broadened my horizons. Perhaps the most enlightening book – and absolutely the most controversial one – he brought home was the seminal Just Like Mommy, Just Like Daddy.

The book – or books, as the front of the book opens to a story about a little girl and her mother while the back flips over to a separate story about a little boy and his father – portrays the 1950s in bright illustrations. In the book, the girl pushes the pram, sweeps the floor, and gets lunch ready for Daddy – just like Mommy. On the flip side, the little boy fishes, shovels, and thanks Mommy for lunch – just like Daddy.

My mom, who generally appreciated my Zaidy’s gifts for her young readers, hated this book. Actually, she still hates this book. The feminist in her is horrified by the gender stereotyping and fixation on demarcating roles for children. My dad think its message is awful too, but he enjoys its comedic value. Not so my mom. Every single time we mention it, she suggests throwing it away. She’s tried to get rid of it multiple times. So I hide my copy, with its bright illustrations and snappy text.

The irony is that my mom actually lived this book with me. When she had my sister, she bought me a baby sling identical to the one she used for my sister so that I could carry my baby doll in it – just like Mommy. She gave me old spools and yarn so that I could sew – just like Mommy. She gave me a set of plastic food and grocery cart so that I could set up a commercial grocery store and turn it into a profitable empire – just for fun. Despite the book’s influence I don’t turn into a child who enjoyed dusting shelves, putting on makeup, or waiting for Daddy to come home. So, I figured that the book was just another fun story that could be enjoyed by children of all genders.

Recently, Special Correspondent Perel’s daughter began to enjoy longer pictures books so I sent her a copy of Just Like Mommy, Just Like Daddy. Like generations of children before her, the little girl loves the book. I was pleased with the reception of my gift. My friend, less so. It might have something to do with the fact that now, whenever her daughter sees a broom, she points at it and says, “Me sweep! Just like Mommy!” On second thought, maybe I should have gotten rid of the book – just like Mommy.

Bad Book in Good Clothing

Bad Book in Good Clothing

I don’t care what I’m wearing – so why would I care about a fictional character’s clothing? Books that name-drop clothing labels indicate that their primary concern is something other than the content. There many be exceptions to that rule, but the vast majority of such novels read like a poor-man’s version of People magazine – without the drama.

Sentences which would automatically exclude a book from being recommended are ones which are interchangeable with this: “She walked in wearing Lanvin’s last-season brocade jade gown with the swooping neckline and 4-inch Ivanka Trump stilettos in a complimentary burgundy.”

Authors who write sentences like that are desperately trying to be this year’s beach read. The writing might be good, but the plot will be formulaic and anemic while the characters are stilted. That last one might be because they’re too busy developing their couture closets to devote any time to developing their characters.

This is not to say that authors shouldn’t mention clothing. Sometimes the clothing is as much a part of the plot as the setting itself. Such as; “Everyone at Joe’s funeral remarked on Fred’s sharp suit, the first thing they’d seen him in that didn’t look like it had been fished out a dumpster then worn to the all-day cock fights down in the Meatpacking District. Curiosity getting the better of him, Bill wandered over to where Joe was standing, as far from the open coffin as he could get. ‘Where’d you get the threads?’ he asked, as he handed Fred a drink. Fred nodded toward the corpse, which was unattended for what seemed to be the first time that day. ‘Figured he wouldn’t object,’ he said coolly.”

The clothing doesn’t make the man. It can’t make the book either.

Another Day, Another Book: Then Came Life

Another Day, Another Book: Then Came Life

It always feels like I’m late to the party. I didn’t know what a donut was until I was seven. I had a phone for going on six years before I got texting. And I only found out a month ago that publishers may send you advance copies of books if you agree to review them.

Offering me books is like offering coke to an addict. I can’t say no. But I can say yes.

I signed up to review a few books, and was chosen for a copy of Then Came Life: Living With Courage, Spirit, and Gratitude After Breast Cancer by Geralyn Lucas. I wrote a review for the website that sent me the book, but for you, dear readers, I’ve done one better. I wrote you a haiku-review.


Then Came Life

Surviving cancer

Means suspecting its return

Trying to live free


If you too would like to book review, check out this site.