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

‘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 | ★★★★★

Perfect Passages: ‘Hard Choices’ by Hillary Rodham Clinton

‘Although we were not able to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it has 18 million cracks in it, and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time, and we are going to keep working to make it so, today keep with me and stand for me, we still have so much to do together, we made history, and lets make some more.’

Perfect Passages: 'Hard Choices' by Hillary Rodham Clinton

‘The Soda Fountain’ by Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman

'The Soda Fountain' by Gia Giasullo and Peter FreemanApparently soda water is medicinal – or, back in the early 1900s, it was once thought as such. Nowadays, New York City lawmakers are trying (and failing) to ban soda whereas pharmacy’s around the country used to provide this magical tonic to ‘stimulate circulation and respiration’.

Although most soda fountains shuttered their doors decades ago, recent years have seen a rebirth of this American institution through both local revival stores and illustrative cookbooks. One such tome, ‘The Soda Fountain’, written by the brother & sister team/proprietors of the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, is a wonderful combination of cookbook and historical essay – filled with beautiful imagery, enchanting typography, tricks of the trade, and nothing but sweets. Egg creams, milkshakes, sundaes, syrups, cakes, cookies, and more … this book is a dieters worst nightmare.

My favorite section, and the pages most likely to be dog-eared, would have to be the section labeled, ‘Not in a Temperance Mood?’ – a soda fountain’s response to the 1920s prohibition era. I can already imagine the picture-perfect and delicious drinks I could produce during my next dinner party, girls night, or picnic. Who wouldn’t want to try ‘The Wimbledon’ – a mixture of strawberries, lime, heavy cream and gin; or a ‘Mead Julep’ – a mixture of bourbon, Brooklyn Farmacy-specialty New Orleans Mead Syrup, and mint.

'The Soda Fountain' by Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman

I am not sure if I should head into the kitchen and start creating, or head to the train station to make my way into the Brooklyn-based shop. Either way, I have a feeling that, although soda fountain drinks may no longer be deemed ‘medicinal’, this treat will surely bring me a smile. Affugazi Affogato – I can hear you calling my name!

Salon Summary

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

HerLiterarySalon.com received this book as a gift from Blogging for Books|The Crown Publishing Group.

Habitually Chic’s ‘Creativity at Work’ by Heather Clawson {A Pictorial Review}

Habitually Chic's 'Creativity at Work' by Heather Clawson {A Pictorial Review}

Habitually Chic's 'Creativity at Work' by Heather Clawson {A Pictorial Review}

Habitually Chic's 'Creativity at Work' by Heather Clawson {A Pictorial Review}

Habitually Chic's 'Creativity at Work' by Heather Clawson {A Pictorial Review} Habitually Chic's 'Creativity at Work' by Heather Clawson {A Pictorial Review}

Habitually Chic's 'Creativity at Work' by Heather Clawson {A Pictorial Review}

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 3 {out of 5} stars | ★★★☆☆
RATING: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆

‘Two Sisters’ by Mary Hogan

I  am the middle child in a family of three girls, so it is no shock that I am drawn to sister stories – sisters who love each other, sisters who hate each other, sisters who hurt each other, sisters who give up everything to protect each other – as long as there are sisters, you can bet I will give the novel a try. Enter stage left, Mary Hogan’s novel, ‘Two Sisters’.

'Two Sisters' by Mary Hogan

The two sisters of this story’s title are older sister, Pia, and younger sister, Muriel. Muriel and Pia have a bitter and rivalry-fueled relationship, largely due to their mother, Lidia – a spoiled, selfish, cruel, priest-seducing, less-than-stellar mom. The gist of the plot circles around over-weight and imperfect Muriel who was cruelly treated by both her mother and sister all through her formative years. Muriel was made to keep the family secrets, namely that perfect daughter Pia was in fact the result of a secret sexual affair between Lidia and her priest, while Muriel was the daughter that Lidia never really wanted.

I wanted to feel bad for Muriel. I wanted to feel outraged for her. That never really happened. And while I strongly disliked her mother Lidia, I really liked Muriel’s sister, Pia. I cared most about Pia and her struggle, her story. Even though Muriel is meant to be the heroine and main focus of this sister tale, I was most satisfied when I was reading about ill-fated Pia and generally uninterested when reading about Muriel and evil Mom, Lidia. Pia’s character was well-developed and intriguing, she was a combination of selfishness/perfection and selflessness/helplessness. Although she was cruel to Muriel, she was still incredibly likable and more down-to-earth that any other character that author, Mary Hogan, created.

As the novel came to a close, I really didn’t care what happened to Muriel, or Lidia, or the mother/daughter relationship. I was done with the story, several chapters before the ending, at the conclusion of the sisters’ reconciliation and ability to finally forgive and accept each other. I placed down this book feeling as though I might have read this story wrong. Can you read a story wrong? Literature professors might say yes. Or is the ability to internalize a story how you chose and explore traits of humanity through fictionalized characters the real beauty of literature? Ultimately, Mary Hogan’s story made me think, and that is all I really want out of a book anyway – so I say, give this story a read and let me know what you think.

Salon Summary

RECOMMENDABILITY: 3 {out of 5} stars | ★★★☆☆
REPETITIVE READABILITY: 1 {out of 5} stars | ★☆☆☆☆
RATING: 4 {out of 5} stars | ★★★★☆

{This novel was gifted to Her Literary Salon by William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishers.}

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