Book Review – LOST

TITLE: LOST: Lost and Found Pet Posters From Around the World
AUTHOR*: Ian Phillips
ILLUSTRATOR: Ian Phillips?
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2002 (NOTE: this is the 15th anniversary edition – it says so on the cover)

So… This looked like it would be something cute and amusing and I’d flip through the pages for an hour and not be sad I wasted time.  I mean, it’s the anniversay edition, so… they wouldn’t reprint something that was crap, right? I went to check it out of the library, and the librarian gushed about how wonderful this little book was.

And I took it home and I looked forward to it.

The concept of this book is…different.  People have lost (or very rarely found) a pet and of course, they make a poster for it.  The author* of this book for whatever reason collects these posters and once made a call around the world for them.

There’s a quick prologue explaining that, and a quick … epilogue? appendices?  whatever… with a list of tips for making your own lost pet poster (note – it didn’t say you had to lose a pet first) and a few stats about pets that I find hard to believe.  Oh, and the font the author used is kinda hard to read – its one of those that is probably meant to look like somebody with remarkably neat handwriting printed something, but it’s done in like 80% gray, so it’s just annoying.

On the right hand are pet posters, and they’re… um… well…  Crap a lot of times.  There’s exactly one page somewhere in the book in color, and there’s a lot in the book that have been copied to the point where you can’t make out half the stuff in them.  I don’t know if they were that bad to begin with or if they were poorly reproduced for the book or what.  But since so many of these posters don’t have pictures of the pets in them at all, who knows.  (I want to be annoyed by that. After all, who doesn’t have a picture of their pet and still cares enough to make a lost pet poster, but if the book was printed in 2002 and it’s a 15th anniversary edition, I guess we’re looking at the 80s, so I can see why they sucked so bad.  Still, if I hadn’t found the book in the non-fiction section, I would have had to check to see if it was a humor book)

The best part about the book was that the left side pages formed a flip book, and if you flipped towards the back you saw a dog run into the page, followed by a cat, followed by a bird, and they corresponded with the dog, cat, and everything else section (the last of which includes birds, a cow, and even a sandwich).

But, since the book was designed to show of the posters, I have to give this one a bad rating.  Another in the “I really wanted to like it” category, I give it 2/5 stars.

 

 

*Note – can you call yourself an author when all you do is write 50 words at the beginning and then show scans of something you’ve collected?

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Book Review – Nanotecture

TITLE: Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things
AUTHOR: Rebecca Roke
PUBLISHED: 2016
FORMAT: Hardcover

Nanotecture is supposed to be, according to the book’s own description, a book about architecture/small houses  (including bird/dog/cathouses).  I got it because I thought it would be a really interesting book about tiny houses, which I would never on any planet live in (where would you put books?!), but which I think are fascinating.

The book is small – slightly smaller than a traditional hardback – and each page features a full color photo and then a description and block info that includes who made it, where, when, why, etc…  It’s arranged in five categories from smallest to largest, and features icons that tell what materials were used in the building project.

So, for starters, the book isn’t quite what it’s billed to be.  A lot of the book (like half of the book) is sculpture and the like and not anything useful in any way, meaningful or not.  “This sculpture was done for an art show and lasted forty-seven hours before we took it down!” (Okay, I’m exaggerating.  But barely.)  The reason I wanted the book was to see DWELLINGS – their word – and not just plain artwork.  Nothing wrong with artwork, but that wasn’t what I was going for.

Also the photo was nicely in full color, but it was a single, exterior shot for each thing.  When the outside of the space is a square and the inside is supposed to hold an entire house, the almost windowless square is the most boring camera area possible.  I’m sure they were going for the small format to keep in theme (oh, a tiny book about tiny houses!), but it lost a lot of potential with only the one image.  I know that not everything could have multiple photos – there was a bird house that could be installed as a roof tile, for instance – but a lot of them had designs that were *about* the inside of the piece.

The book was thorough, but it wasn’t what it said it was, and it lacked a few things that would have made it stellar.  I’ll give it 3/5.  Look at it for what it is – an art book – and not at all a book about tiny houses.

Book Review – Save The Date

TITLE: Save The Date: The occasional mortifications of a serial wedding guest
AUTHOR: Jen Doll
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2014

I will start this review with a slight disclaimer.  I found this book in Book Pages, in the midst of a page of chick lit books, so I expected it to be fiction when I requested it from the library.  It’s a memoir.  But I decided that the jacket blurb still sounded amusing enough (so what if it wasn’t the genre I expected? – the blurb hadn’t changed, right?), so I read it anyway.  And really, in my defense, it had sounded like chick lit, so I assumed.  Even her name sounds fake (although her website and bio blurb both promise it isn’t.).

Anyway, I’m sorry I read it and that had nothing whatosever to do with genre.

In case you wondered, here’s the blurb:

From a fresh and exciting new voice, a hilarious and insightful examination of the search for love and the meaning of marriage in a time of anxiety, independence, and indecision.

Weddings. They’re fun, festive, and joyful, and at a time when people marry later in life—and sometimes not at all—they offer endless opportunities to reexamine love and what we want for ourselves, regardless of whether our aim is a walk down the aisle. In Save the Date, Jen Doll charts the course of her own perennial wedding guesthood, from the ceremony of distant family members when she was eight to the recent nuptials of a new boyfriend’s friends.

There’s the first trip home for a childhood pal’s big day, during which she learns that her first love has eloped to Hawaii. There’s the destination wedding attended with little baggage beyond a suitcase of strappy sandals and summery party dresses. Regrettably, there is a series of celebrations that mean the end to a valued friendship. There’s also the wedding that offers all the promise of new love.

Wedding experiences come in as varied an assortment as the gowns at any bridal shop, and Doll turns a keen eye to each, delivering a heartfelt exploration of contemporary relationships. Funny, honest, and affecting, Save the Date is a spirited look at the many ways in which we connect with one another.

 

It sounds like typical chick lit (even if it is the non-fiction version) so I started ahead.  The book starts with a wedding she attended as a child and goes on and on about how she was hooked and weddings are the Most. Amazing. Things. Ever.

Every chapter is part something about her and something about somebody’s wedding.

What I was hoping for with this book was a bunch of stories about weddings she’d attended with a few anecdotes here and there.

Really, with several of these stories, especially in the second half of the book, you could take the wedding out of the chapter and just have Jen Behaving Badly.  Ever. Single. Chapter.

You see, she’s the kind of person that I can’t stand.  She’s one of those in the moment damn the consequences but not in a good way sort of people.  One of the early weddings she talks about is the destination wedding of a friend.  She’s broke, of course, so she immediately goes and books airfare and buys an expensive wedding gift (and I know this because she told us it was an expensive wedding gift) and takes a vacation to the Caribbean, because hello, the opportunity clearly presented itself.

Never mind that if you were really poor there’s no way in hell you’d even consider going, let alone manage to find the funds to do it, so let’s describe her like she really is.  Overtaxed monetarily because she has no stop button.

Every chapter has pretty much the same sort of story line.  1. Ridiculous over the top wedding.  2. Open Bar.  3. Jen behaves like a spoiled toddler.  4. Somebody has to do damage control because she’s a raging alcoholic, and not even the kind that’s just fun to watch.  She’s a TOTAL FUCKING TRAINWRECK.

To the point that in one chapter, she even ADMITS that she “may have been a bit of an alchoholic for a while” – which shows she’s still floating in Denial (capital D for sure) because she had several chapters of being a mess of an alcoholic after that.  Including going for drinks before the wedding so she could drink at the wedding and after the wedding and at the after reception party.  (Side note:  I haven’t exactly been to a million weddings, but not one of my friends has ever had a wedding with a party after the party.)

I read to the end because I was determined there had to be a point to all this.  But there wasn’t.  There was no arc that made her sympathetic in the least.  And she glossed over all the weddings, which was supposed to be the point of this book.

I would have loved it if we could have enjoyed more details about the traditional New Orleans wedding bash – or hell, even more about the gifts that all got stolen (nope, just a throwaway line about how the bride was like “oh well”  – um,  no she wasn’t.).  The destination weddings.  Hell, even a detail about THE BRIDE’S DRESS instead of Jen telling us what she wore to the bash.

I would rather read the 2nd 50 Shades book than read any more of her drivel.  I’m pretty sure the only reason that this book ever saw the light of day was because she wrote for a big NYC magazine and has friends in the Biz.

In fact, the only thing this book has going for her was the fact that she managed remarkably well formatted sentences and exceptional grammar.  But that aside, it’s total crap.  So 2 out of 5, but only because her sentences were pretty.

 

 

 

Book Review – Smile

TITLE: Smile
AUTHOR: Luis Sanchez
FORMAT: Paperback
PUBLISHED: 2014

On my little book date, I discovered a wonderful series of books called 33 1/3, the name of course coming from the size of a record, which was cool because they’re a series of music books.
The first one I found was Smile, which dealt with the Beach Boys, a band I grew up with. I wasn’t familiar with Smile as a piece of work, at least by name, which isn’t saying much because I never know titles of things. So, you know, I was excited to find this.

Except here is the thing. The little book reads a lot like a badly organized college paper (And this from a guy with a PhD in Musicology), and by a guy who totally misses the point.
The first thing the book talks about is a SNL (Saturday Night Live) promo skit where Brian Wilson is chased by the surfing police and sent out in the water on a surf board which he hardly manages to use, at one point using the board backwards even. Cue rant by Sanchez about how the skit misses who the Beach Boys are, yadda yadda, whatever.
Except that you can watch the skit on YouTube, and if you watch it, it’s clearly satire, it’s meant to be cheezy as heck, and Sanchez would still miss the point if it was the broad side of a barn.

Then, the book flops around back and forth about how fat Brian Wilson is and a few other things, but it never really talks about SMILE whatsoever, and by the time I got halfway through the book, I didn’t really know what the point of all this was, and, even worse for a book… I didn’t care.

So, the book had promise, but Sanchez clearly didn’t.
Two out of five pages.

Book Review – Hungry Planet

TITLE: Hungry Planet – What the World Eats
Author: Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio
Format: Hardback
Published: ? (2000-something or other) [NOTE: I seriously cannot find it in the book anywhere… Amazon says 2005]

So, there’s a group of photos that goes around Facebook from time to time that shows a few families and what they eat in a week. Of course, because it’s FB, the pictures don’t have any captions beyond the country, and no further information. Pretty much all it managed to do was make America look bad. Amidst a conversation about what info I wished accompanied them, a friend of mine said “Hey, do you know those are from a book?”
SO I went to the library and got the book.

The setup is pretty simple. There’s a picture of a family, surrounded by all the food they eat in a week’s time. There’s a short feature article about them, age and occupation of all of them, and a list of really important facts like what appliances they had or whether or not they had refrigeration.
Of course they’re going to eat much simpler than Americans when they’re cooking from scratch and can’t store processed crap.

It also talked about how much they spent and where they got everything, and even how they got it home.

I think the most amazing part of this book wasn’t seeing how much more or less somebody consumed, but seeing how differently people eat from one area to another because of societal factors. One person commented once it was weird to buy a week’s worth of food at a time instead of shopping every day. There were discussions of neighborhood markets vs big superstores, of gardening, of schlepping stuff home, of how often they ate meat. Even of eating habits – how many of them were eating on the run vs sitting down for a communal meal in the middle of the afternoon no matter what.
The thing that had most bothered me on FB was the crappy money comparison. “Africa only pays $1 a week to eat, omg!” Except that this book does everyone a solid and shows an amount that wouldn’t count for a stronger currency conversion like that – it showed how much money it would cost to buy the same thing here.

So a picture might tell 1000 words, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, you know?
Let’s take the Aboubakar family from Chad. Mom is 40; the children range from 2-16. They’re refugees with no running water, no refrigeration, just an open cooking fire. Their food budget of $1.23 was for 9 oz. of dried goat meat, 7 oz. of dried fish, pepper and ginger, also both dried, onion and limes, which miraculously weren’t dried, dried red peppers and okra and tomatoes (yes, dried tomatoes)… What the price doesn’t include is 50lbs of rations – sorghum, corn/soy, sugar, salt, oil, pulses (seeds of legumes and the like), and a 77 gallon water ration.

…I think this book was amazing.
A photo, a stat box, a story about the people we’re looking at, statistics about purchasing power parity and the number of McDonalds in the country, and population and alcohol and dozens of other things, photos that make everything seem so rich and vibrant.
But unlike seeing just the photos on social media, such a more interesting and full story. For instance, some photos show more than a week’s worth of stuff if a larger quantity had to be purchased at a time (i.e., a bag of something lasts two weeks), notes about what they provide without cost such as home grown produce. The book also includes favorite recipes from each family. I’m tempted to try one or two.

I think this book is amazing. I think it should be required education in schools and set on everyone’s coffee tables for amazing meaningful discussion.
Definitely a 5 out of 5. I’m going to go buy myself a copy.

Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road

TITLE: 84, Charing Cross Road
AUTHOR/EDITOR: Helene Hanff
FORMAT: Paperback
COPYRIGHT: 1970
THIS EDITION: 1990

Another find on the library date, 84, Charing Cross Road, is nothing but a series of letters that follow an aloof writer/reader and a bookstore from 1949 to 1969.

Basically, these start with her writing from NYC to London, a request with a little bookstore to find a book she’s craving because she saw their ad in a magazine and their “antiquarian” expertise is something she equates with money.

What follows is quite charming – a $5/book cap on prices, which inflates to about $50 today, that seems quaint even though it wasn’t, a friendship that includes powdered and fresh eggs and nylons when they couldn’t get them because of post-war rationing, and a friendship that continued in letters for decades, ending only in her main friend/contact’s death.

I love that the letters were all kept to the point that this book could happen.  We don’t have this kind of society anymore.  We don’t have quaint bookshops that will operate under the honor system and mail a book across the ocean and send a bill.  We have e-Commerce sites and anonymous people and warehouses and not shoppes.  Credit cards and anonymity.

This book made my heart sing and it made me happy for a time that I wish I could have been a part of.

Life today is easier, but it isn’t better.

I’m giving this a 5 out of 5.  Beautiful in its simplicity.  (Also, they’ve made it into a movie, if you’re so inclined.)

Book Review – 101 Two Letter Words

TITLE: 101 Two Letter Words
AUTHOR: Stephin Merritt
ILLUSTRATOR: Roz Chast
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2014

Okay. I have to say that as a writer, this book caught my eye immediately. (Also because I have 98% of the two letter words in Words With Friends and can’t figure out which 2% I am missing)

The book is arranged pretty simply. There’s a two-letter word, an image, and a little four line rhyming poem that utilizes the word somehow. It starts with AA (which is apparently a jagged kind of lava) and ends with ZA, which we all know is apparently an acceptable abbreviation for pizza, but nobody ever ever ever says it.

The rhymes are cute and the illustrations are simple but sweet.

-insert heavy sigh here-

So here’s my issue. Since everything is cutesy little rhymes, nothing seemed to stick much in my head as I looked it over. I mean, I liked the book and someday I might end up with a copy on my bookshelf, but I queston the book’s actual usefulness. No real help on pronunciation, so we can guess and mostly be right but on a few of these it’d help.

In the end, I’m going to give this book a 4/5. It’s the type of book you’d give as a silly gift or pick up at the library, but I don’t see a lot of people rushing out to buy it as reference material.

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