‘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 | ★☆☆☆☆

HerLiterarySalon.com 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 | ★★★★★

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.