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Her Literary Salon - Get Lost in a Book with a Dame Who Just Can't Stop Reading

‘Refinery29: Style Stalking’ by Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi

Upon first seeing this book’s jacket quickly in passing, I thought perhaps it was a third edition of Scott Schuman’s ‘The Sartorialist’. Once I looked a little closer, I realized bloggers from Refinery29 had actually published this latest fashion exposé. Since I largely enjoy Refinery29’s blog and Schuman’s last books, I figured I should add this book to my TBR shelf.

'Refinery29: Style Stalking' by Christene Barberich and Piera Gelardi

In the end, once opened, this book did not wow me or really keep my interest. There were definitely some visually striking images throughout the pages, but the fashion/outfit ideas shared were neither innovation nor really directed toward a person older than 25/past those entry level positions of employment. Although I am in my early thirties and not yet at the pinnacle of my career, professionally I have begun achieving certain positional leaps. If I were to wear some of the (albeit) colorful outfits that this book suggests, I would be looked upon with the seemingly ‘unexperienced young person’ stigma I have fought so hard to cease. Refinery29’s book was, I fear, not (meant to be) targeted to me.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 2 {out of 5} stars | ★★☆☆☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 0 {out of 5} stars | ☆☆☆☆☆
RATING: 2 {out of 5} stars | ★★☆☆☆ received this book as a gift from Blogging for Books|The Crown Publishing Group.

‘Monstrously Funny Cartoons’ by Christopher Hart

'Monstrously Funny Cartoons' by Christopher HartConfession #813: I doodle. I doodle everywhere; in notebooks, on napkins, in day planners, on post-its, on white boards – if I have a pen and some paper I will fill it up with circles and hearts, lightening bolts and flowers, explosions and arrows. But, I do not doodle people. When I was offered the chance to receive a copy of ‘Monstrously Funny Cartoons’ by Christopher Hart, I thought it would be interesting to try my hand at doodling people – or in this book’s case cartoon-like people and monsters including Zombies, Vampires, Aliens, and Mummies.

I found I was most drawn to the tutorials on drawing animal-like monsters rather than human-like monsters. I skipped completely Chapter 2 on ‘Vampires: Narcissists of the Underworld’ as these legends of lore totally freak me out, but I did try out a mummified tweety bird from Chapter 5’s ‘Mad for Mummies’ (found on page 103).

'Monstrously Funny Cartoons' by Christopher Hart

As well as several furry monster friends from Chapter 3’s ‘Monsters That Go Bump In The Night’ (found on pages 69, 73, 84 + 85).

'Monstrously Funny Cartoons' by Christopher Hart

The creations turned out whimsical and fun, with the tutorials being easy to follow – although probably not by a first-time artist. I can imagine elementary or middle school age children really being inspired and having fun with this book. Author Christopher Hart appears to have many different genres of drawing books available, and though some of his other collections may have been more in line with my personality and likes, I did spend a very enjoyable afternoon with Hart’s Monsters.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 2 {out of 5} stars | ★★☆☆☆
RATING: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆ received this book as a gift from Blogging for Books|The Crown Publishing Group.

‘A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse’ by Mimi Thorisson

'A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse' by Mimi ThorissonTwo days before Christmas, I received a rather large package from Random House. Since so much of my holiday shopping is completed online, I assumed the package must contain a gift for one of my nearest and dearest. Upon opening the box, I yelled out, ‘Oh, it’s a gift for me!’ and pulled out Mimi Thorisson’s rather large/heavy and beautifully printed cookbook, ‘A Kitchen in France.’

My step one after receiving any cookbook – read through the recipes and mark those I will be making (orange tabs) and those I will be begging my husband to make for me (blue tabs). As the picture demonstrates, most of the heavy lifting will be completed by my husband.

My top five recipes for my husband to surprise me with one fine dinner or late lunch are:

  • Onion Tart (page 30/Spring)
  • Butternut Gratin (page 195/Autumn)
  • Potatoe Pie with Comté Cheese (page 231/Winter)
  • Garlic Soup (page 242/Winter)
  • Happy Valley Wonton Soup (page 291/Winter)

'A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse' by Mimi ThorissonMy one lone orange tab is marking the recipe on page 139/Summer - Strawberries in Wine with Mascarpone Cream. Everything about this recipe sounds perfectly wonderful. I love wine, I love cheese, I love strawberries, and I love dessert. Plus, the recipe sounds incredibly oops-proof and I was sold after reading Thorisson’s testimonial, ‘Truthfully, this is really just an upgraded version of the unbeatable combination of strawberries and whipped cream, but adding wine and mascarpone gives the traditional duo zing and a touch of grown-up elegance.’

I needed to do a little googling for certain recipes to figure out what some ingredients were – i.e. Fleur de sel is more commonly known as sea salt, and Crème fraîche is a soured cream – but overall the directions seem complete and thorough.

This is a beautiful, unique and inviting cookbook. I am very excited to dig in and see what delicious messes can be made.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
RATING: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆ received this book as a gift from Blogging for Books|The Crown Publishing Group.

‘Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir’ by Frances Mayes

Under Magnolia by Frances MayesI was never able to really get into Frances Mayes’ earlier tomes, namely, ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and ‘Bella Tuscany’. While I do admit to having a love/hate relationship with Diana Lanes’s cinematic Frances, I can honestly say, the literary Frances wasn’t able to spark any sort of feeling in me whatsoever. I never even made it past the first chapter.

So, why did I pick up this book? Truth be told – I am a sucker for a Southern belle. I have this notion that ‘belles’ of South Carolina and Georgia must have a simpler and endlessly more romantic life than us northerners (although I have no proof of this in the slightest), and thus, I cannot help but be drawn to these ‘Southern’ tales.

At least with this book I was quickly able to read through the first chapter. And then … boredom. Stuck, stuck, stuck. Reading for me needs to be pleasurable – life is work, reading is fun. Combined with the idea that I hate to ever write a bad literary review, I always try to find the good in every novel (except for this one which I loathed) and and power through to the end. I heavy-heartedly admit to failure with this one. I just do not connect with Ms. Mayes. She is by no means a bad writer, she is just not for me.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 1 {out of 5} stars | ★☆☆☆☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 0 {out of 5} stars | ☆☆☆☆☆
RATING: 1 {out of 5} stars | ★☆☆☆☆ received this book as a gift from Blogging for Books|The Crown Publishing Group.

‘Grace: A Memoir’ by Grace Coddington; Michael Roberts

I have recently begun working for my local county library system. Really, it is like letting an addict loose in a pile of happiness. I now spend five – sometimes six – days a week at the library, surrounded by rows and rows of books … beautiful, beautiful, free books. As such, you can normally find me – during my lunch break – leafing through the collection and checking out more books than I can possibly read. It is in this new position, surrounded by so many novelistic opportunities, that I discovered my newfound love of audio books. While I loathe ebooks, I adore audio books. I pop into the branch during the day, grab a new batch of CD’s and listen as I work. ‘Grace: A Memoir’ was my latest listen.

In my opinion, biographies can be either terrific or tedious – there is no in-between. ‘Grace’ was enchanting. There was not a single moment of reminiscence reeking with the odorous scent of lies. The memoir was intelligent, whimsical, relatable, lacking any of the standard subterfuge synonymous with still-living memoir authors – and read by none other than shy and accented Grace Coddington herself, which made the tome that much more charming.

'Grace: A Memoir' by Grace Coddington

One of my favorite stories in the book centered around Grace’s first modeling job. In it, Grace matter-of-factly explained that the photographer wished her to pose in a forest – nude (Grace’s sketch highlighting the event is displayed above). She wrapped up the story stating, “Anyway, I had a lovely time. It was my first modeling job. And afterward we all went home for tea.” Like I said, enchanting.

'Grace: A Memoir' by Grace Coddington

'Grace: A Memoir' by Grace Coddington

Perhaps the book would not have been as satisfying as having Grace speak her stories to me – although I did also take out the hardback version in order to view the sketches especially created for the memoir, as well as the large collection of images interspersed through the pages. I know for certain I would recommend listening to the audio book to anyone who enjoys biographies, fashion, or just needs a pleasant diversion for several hours. I would especially encourage you to swing back to this blog after you finish listening to weigh in and let me know if you agree with my assessment. Next I am moving on to Anjelica Huston’s memoir, ‘Watch Me’, as she also narrated her own audio book. Stay tuned – Anjelica has a lot to live up to if she hopes to be as memorable as sweet Grace.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 5 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★★
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
RATING: 5 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★★

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