Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home

by Various
Published by NOLO
2011 3rd Edition

*Note that a new 4th edition came out in December 2012. My review is of the 3rd edition from 2011.

"... you want to make sure you don't find just any house - you find the right house, at the right price, with the right loan. A house you're happy to stay in for a long time, no matter what the market does. To do that, you need a lot of information."

Nolo is an online company of legal advisors who specialize in several things including real estate. Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home is the only book you should get if you are in this particular stage in life. This guide is comprehensive, thorough, easy to understand and laid out in a very useful way. It was a surprise to me how much information I gleamed from reading, how it stuck with me and how I never found myself overwhelmed with information.

The book is divided into 15 chapters. In the beginning of the book even shows you how the chapters flow in a manner that is reminiscent of the home buying process. The chart is called "Navigating the path to your first home" and here are the chapters/steps:

1 - Learn the Benefits
2 - Decide what you want
3 - Make a budget
4- Check out the market
5- Choose professionals
6/7 - Get a mortgage
8/9 - Find your house
10 - Negotiate a deal
11/12/13 - Inspect, insure, prepare to move
14 - Seal the Deal
15 - Settle in

Each chapter has different names than the above but those are the basic steps from beginning to end. The chapters are written each by different experts who specialize in the topic at hand. It begins with an introduction to the author, their credentials and their home buying experience. Then it proceeds by laying out all the information in a very thorough yet concise manner. There are breaks for Tips, "Check it Out" which references to outside sources for more information (some on, some elsewhere on the internet), little quizzes, fun trivia, quotes, and more. I particularly liked the regular feature "best thing we ever did" which gives personal insights to situations that were salvaged by some smart moves. These were very enlightening and provided some very useful tips. The book covers every possible scenario, good and bad, and how it should be handled.

The edition I read, while from 2011 was a little outdated, not in the real estate advice but in terms of technology. It had mentioned MySpace as a leading social network. This is quite an outdated error even in 2011. Also, the 3rd edition comes with a CD-ROM with forms and charts to download. The 4th edition directs users to download the same forms on and ditches the CD-ROM altogether. While I am still nostalgic for the days of CD-ROM, thanks to companies like Apple these will be completely obsolete soon. I also noticed that the book needs a good proofreader who can change all mentions of things listed "below" when they are really on the next page.

If you are buying a home for the first time, you need to get this book. It's really essential. I am in the unique position in that I am buying my first home yet helping my husband sell his current place, where we live now. The book doesn't give advice on how to sell and buy at the same time since this is exclusively for first time home buyers. I recommend pairing this book with several viewings of HGTV's show My First Place. I also recommend reading Nolo's book all the way through once then using it later as a resource. It good to absorb as much information as you can but no one will expect to you to memorize it, so that's when having this book on hand will prove useful.

Publisher Giveaways on Goodreads

The Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program gives away thousands of books each year. Since anyone can just give away any book the list tends to be populated with a self-published stuff. Also,
a lot of very eager authors put up their books hoping for reviews.

Personally, I prefer to sign up for a giveaway that is run by a publisher or publicist. I feel like they are a neutral party because they understand that with good reviews there are bad reviews.  They also won't be stalking you on Goodreads as an eager self-published author might. (No offense to all the lovely authors who do not exhibit this behavior!).

Goodreads doesn't provide any way to weed out the author/self-published  from the traditional publisher giveaways. LibraryThing does a great job at that (Early Reviewers versus Member Giveaway). I really wanted to keep track of the publisher created giveaways so I created a list!

Note that some publishers might not have any giveaways open currently and the list includes past giveaways. Also some of the links below are to the company's publicist's giveaways and are not branded with the company name. I like to check this list regularly to see what's available for giveaway now and what's coming up.

WARNING: If you do participate in these giveaways, be prepared to review the book! Don't just enter to get a free book that you can put away on your bookshelves and let gather dust. These publishers want reviews and are willing to give you a free copy of a book in exchange for one. So make sure you review the book and prioritize reading it! Don't abuse the system.

I will update this list as I find more publishers to include.

[Updated 12/20/12]

Atria (Simon & Schuster)
Beacon Press
Blue Rider Press
Candlewick Press
CBSD Library
Cedar Fort
Center Street
Counterpoint Press

Crown (Random House)
DC Comics
Doubleday (Random House)
Duke University Press
Europa Editions
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
Free Press
G.P. Putnam & Sons
Gallery Books
Gotham Avery
Grand Central #1
Grand Central #2
Grove Atlantic
Harper Audio
Harper Books
Harper Children's
Harper Perennial
Harper Teen
Henry Holt 
It Books (Harper Collins)
Knopf (Random House)
Linden Press
Little Brown 
Medallion Press 
Melville House
Mulholland Books
New Harbringer Publications
Orbit Books
Penguin Press
Penguin Teen
Permanent Press
Picador USA
Pocket Books
Princeton University Press
Quirk Books
Random House (Various Imprints) 
Random House (Main Imprint)
Riverhead Books (Penguin)
Riverhead Trade (Penguin)
Simon & Schuster
Simon Pulse
Soho Press
St. Martin's Press #1 (MacMillan)
St. Martin's Press #2 (MacMillan)
St. Martin's Press #3 (MacMillan)
Thomas Nelson Fiction
TinHouse Books
Tor Books
Touchstone (Simon & Schuster)
Tundra Books
Unbridled Books
Viking Books
Vintage/Anchor (Random House)
Walnut Springs
Weldon Owen Publishing
William Morrow
W.W. Norton
Zest Books

The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg

The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg
University of Minnesota Press
Originally Published 1950

"... a fugitive from the Twenties... you jokers went off on one long tear and left us to pay the check. And you don't seem to know yet that the party is over."

Budd Schulberg was a screenwriter known for his screenplay of the critically acclaimed film On the Waterfront (1954). Schulberg also wrote novels including The Disenchanted which was published in 1950 and recently reprinted by University of Minnesota Press. The novel is based on the experience Schulberg had working with the troubled genius F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Producer Walter Wanger hired Budd Schulberg to assist F. Scott Fitzgerald in writing a screenplay about the Winter Carnivals at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Schulberg was a recent alumni. The movie was to be Winter Carnival (1939)The whole experience made quite an impact on Schulberg that he decided to fictionalize the experience in The Disenchanted.

In the novel, Shep is a young writer in Hollywood who is still wet behind the ears and has just been assigned to work with the great T. Manley Halliday (known as just Manley Halliday) on the collegiate winter romance Love on Ice. Manley is a prestigious writer with numerous successful novels and screenplays to his credits. But by 1939, most of his books are out of print and he's hanging by a thread: the fleeting recognition of his name and illustrious career. Manley is working on a manuscript for his next great novel but he's in desperate need of money to buy him the time to finish it. So he reluctantly takes on working with Shep on Love on Ice and is officially hired by producer Victor Milgrim.

Manley is diabetic and has been on the wagon for a few years. He's been divorced for years from the love and scourge of his life Jere. His assistant and sort-of mistress Ann Loeb helps him daily and keeps him on the straight and narrow. When Manley boards the plane with Shep from L.A. to N.Y. and Shep pours the first glass from a bottle of champagne, it's all over. Manley goes on a bender and Shep assumes various roles of assistant, writer and parent to Manley. Shep struggles between the feelings of admiration for Manley's magnificent literary and movie successes and the shell of a man he sees before him. Throughout the novel we follow Manley and Shep on their crazy adventure to get Love on Ice written before they arrive on location for filming. There are also flashbacks in which we learn more about Manley's life. His early career, his love affair with the troubled Jere and the days just before he leaves L.A. on the trip.

The Disenchanted is a captivating novel about a doomed project between two writers at opposite ends of their careers. I highly recommend this novel to classic film fans especially those who love fiction. It's fun to spot the names of real actors, actresses and films as well as to figure out the reference made by fictionalized ones. I really loved the theme of old versus young as I think that is a conflict that is very relevant today especially with new technology making age gaps even bigger. Reading it was at some points a bit of a drag mostly because of Manley's antics. But I think what I was experiencing was a bit of the same emotion Shep was feeling towards Manley: frustration and disenchantment.

Read my more movie based review at my classic film blog Out of the Past.

Disclaimer: Thank you to the University of Minnesota Press for sending me this book to review!

Book Haul (1)

From top to bottom:

Young Man With a Horn by Dorothy Baker

I love the movie from 1950 which stars Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and Doris Day, all of whom are still alive today (as of December 2012). I wanted to try reading the novel for a few reasons. My love for the movie, the fact that it's one of the first jazz novels and the influence of women writers on Hollywood.

I want to read more early Twentieth Century fiction especially novels which were adapted into movies. I asked on Twitter which Raymond Chandler book I should read first and folks recommended Farewell, My Lovely.

I have been suffering from bad migraines for a couple of years now so I thought it would be good to learn more about them. Also, Eva from A Striped Armchair raves about Oliver Sacks so I thought I'd try out one of his books.

Bookish Resolutions for 2013

1) Participate in a Reading Challenge or start one of my own - I'm thinking of either joining up a non-fiction challenge because I'm already part of a 5 year classics club challenge so I have fiction covered. Or start my own challenge. I have two ideas. "Read Your Own Library" challenge in which participants try to tackle the books that have been neglected in their own personal library. I know I bought way too many books in 2012 and my own library has too many unread books in it for my liking. Another is a "Classic Film Book Challenge" in which I ask participants to read one classic film related book a month and review it either on their blog or on social media.

2) Make a Dent in my Personal Library's Unread Book Pile - Tied in with the above Read Your Own Library challenge idea. I really need to do this one way or the other.

3) Buy Fewer Books & Swap - I just have too many and no space for more. If I do buy any new books, I need to get rid of older ones to make space for the new.

4) Read More - I had planned to read 75 books in 2012 but with wedding planning, illness and general stress I ended up reading less than 60 which is a woeful number. I'll set my Goodreads 2013 Challenge for 75 books. If by the 4th quarter I'm doing really well and have surpassed me goal, I'll bump it up to 100.

5) Schedule Times for Reading - I squeeze in reading whenever I can but I really need to plan dedicated reading times either in the evenings or on the weekends. Good blocks of time just for reading. I would get a lot more books read that way!

6) More Reviews - Now that I'll have some more free time in 2013 I want to get a lot more reviews up here on my book blog and on my movie and food blogs.

7) Read a Novel in Spanish - I have a couple at home and I think this would be really good for practicing my Spanish and improving my literacy in that language.

8) Purchase a Jose Saramago novel that is in the original Portuguese - The holy grail! Online and in stores I can only find his work translated into English or Spanish. The original Portuguese is impossible to find. I have family in Portugal and am seriously considering sending them money for Saramago books in Portuguese in return.

9) Read at least 10 Classics - I'm very behind on my Classics Club Challenge of 50 classics in 5 years. If I read at least 10 next year, and maybe more, I can catch up.

10) Putting Down the iPhone - My iPhone is quite an addictive device. I have it by my side constantly and I use it on a regular basis. I feel like this takes away from potential reading time. One of my personal goals for 2013 is to use it less. When I'm reading, it's nice to have it by my side if I want to look up something but I really should be leaving it another room so as to not distract me.

Other hopes for 2013 
Read a mid-twentieth century novel
Read a science and/or math book
Participate in the Science Book Club on Goodreads
Catch up on a lot of my classic film reading

What are your bookish resolutions for 2013?

Quelle Books 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

It's my belief that the best present you can give anyone is a book. The fact is, there is a book for everyone. It doesn't matter how obscure or simple their interests are. Books make great gifts. Here are some gift ideas.

For the Ernest Hemingway Fan

The first time all the Hemingway books are available on audio and in one complete set.
For the Sensitive Teen

For the Dominican-American

or any Diaz book for that matter

For the Math Geek

For the Jazz Nut

One of the first Jazz novels
For the Discerning Cook

For the Economist

by Thomas K. McGraw

For the Angophile

Persephone publishes books by unknown British women writers. They'll send the recipient one book a month (you pick the books) and although they are UK based they do deliver internationally.

For the Audio Book Lover with a Long Commute

They'll get one audio book a month and discounts on other audio books plus lots of benefits (I miss my subscription!).

For the Science Nerd

For the First-Time Home Buyer

For the Well-Dressed Man

Moby Dick in the News

There has been so much in the news about Moby Dick. The classic 19th century novel is undergoing a grand resurgence and it is very popular right now with no movie adaptation or major milestone anniversary to support it!

Moby Dick Big Read - Starting in mid-September 2012, one chapter a day is posted in audio format with a different narrator. 

Call me hygienic: Pennsylvania uses 'Moby Dick' to enforce hand-washing - New York Daily News 10/22/12 - first page of Moby Dick is used to encourage people to wash their hands after using the toilet.

Moby Dick becomes a Zombie Novel with Zomby Dick or The Undead Whale published on 10/31/12

Moby Dick for babies?  Cozy Classics releases Moby Dick as a board book News story hits 11/8/12

Nathaniel Philbrick's Why Read Moby-Dick? was released in 2011

On the weekend of 11/16/12-11/18/12 there was a Moby Dick Marathon in NYC

10/18/12 was the 161st anniversary of Moby Dick (it's book publication or serialization? not sure). Google celebrated with the above Google Doodle.

Obama is re-elected in November 2012 and Moby Dick is listed as one of his favorite books.

In August 2012 it was reported that Out of Print Clothing raised more than $29k Kickstarter to raise money to make classic book inspired e-reader covers including one for Moby Dick.

Actor Chevy Chase' favorite book is Moby Dick.

November 2012 - Moby Dick Beer - Powell in conjunction with Rogue Ale sells White Whale Ales

I will keep adding to this list as I find more Moby Dick references in the news.

The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century by Margaret Talbot

The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century by Margaret Talbot
The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father's Twentieth Century 
by Margaret Talbot
November 2012
Riverhead (Penguin)

This review originally appeared on my movie blog Out of the Past.

Please make sure you also check out my interview with the author which can be found on my movie blog too. 

In her captivating, impeccably researched narrative - a charmed combination of Hollywood history, social history, and family memoir - Margaret Talbot conjures warmth and nostalgia for those earlier eras of '10s and '20s small-town American, '30s and '40s Hollywood. She transports us to an alluring time, simpler but also exciting, and illustrated the changing face of her father's America, all while telling the story of mass entertainment across the first half of the twentieth century. - Riverhead Books

Margaret Talbot's The Entertainer is not simply a biography about her father the actor Lyle Talbot. Rather the book consists of two parallel stories; one of Talbot's life as a man and career as an actor and the other about the evolution of Hollywood and the entertainment industry in the twentieth century.

This book is a portrait of an entertainer placed firmly on the canvass of twentieth century history. The Entertainer is a charming book with a lot of insight and thoughtfulness and a rich abundance of information. The book chronicles Lyle Talbot's life and career almost chronologically. There are several jumps back and forth through time but the course keeps steady and it reads as though you are moving forward continuously rather than simply jumping around.

Margaret Talbot doesn't try to romanticize her father. She is frank about his drinking problem and how he never became a major movie star. But this book is also an ode to the father who she knew and loved dearly. Their age gap reminds me very much of the one I have with my own father (52 years in my case and almost 60 in hers). Her father was secretive about his romantic past, much like my own is now. A lot of what Margaret Talbot found out about her father Lyle's girlfriends and wives was from her research.

Speaking of research, the author relies a lot on the memories of her father as well as the stories that her father told her and the ones shared by family and friends. She also relies on scrapbooks, photographs, clippings, receipts, menus, telegrams, postcards and other papers saved over the years. She revisited taped interviews and transcripts and dug up articles and interviews from various publications and read many biographies, novels and books on history and criticism. She recounts a lovely story about a man finding a photo scrapbook of her father at a yard sale, realizing it's importance and contacting her about transferring the book back to the family. I'm sure a lot of people would have kept those photographs or sold them so it's nice to hear that someone was generous enough to give them to the family for safe keeping.

The book clocks in at over 400 pages and includes 45 black and white photos which appear throughout the text. This type of design is my ideal as the photos appear with the relevant text to go along with it. It keeps me from flipping back and forth from a photo insert to where I had left off reading (which I have done many times in the past with other books).

For those of you who are looking for a book about an actor's life, without all the salaciousness of other biographies and with plenty of context, then look no further than this book. I wish there were more books like this one; kind yet frank portrayals with lots of added information. I would go so far to call this book an enhanced biography. I found The Entertainer to be absolutely charming, well-written and insightful.

Disclosure: Thank you to Riverhead Books (a division of Penguin) for providing me with an advance readers copy of the book to review.

Classics Project Book #3: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Harper Perennial

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those mid-Twentieth Century classics that everyone reads in school. But somehow this classic has eluded me for years.

There were three English teachers in my high school and two of them were teaching To Kill a Mockingbird as part of their curriculum for Junior year. I had the third teacher. She was wonderful and while I don't remember her name I will never forget the novels she had us read. They planted the seed of a lifelong love of books in me. She also allowed us to pick our own classics for one term and that freedom to chose what I wanted to read was quite liberating. It was only a few years later that I decided to become an English major even with my long history of poor reading comprehension.

That disability was brought to light while reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I often times found myself confused and had to re-read sections. I couldn't quite tell if we were listening to Scout as an adult narrate her past or if it was Scout in the present. Or a combination of both. I've always had difficulty reading fiction and was hoping it would not have been so noticeable when I read this classic.

Despite my difficulties, I thoroughly enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird. Stories set in the South are some of my favorites. There is something about the culture matched with sweltering heat and isolation that produces amazing stories. As a child of 1980s Cartoons, I often found myself trying to get rid of the Jem TV show theme song every time I encountered the same name in the text. I felt like I wanted to get closer to the characters but they were held at a distance to me. Atticus is a character I would love to learn more about but he will just always be an enigma to me. I love how sensitive this book is to prejudice and racism and I'm sure it made a historic impact on the civil rights movement when the book was published in 1961 and the movie released the following year.

This book deals with some heavy issues and I feel that the young character of Scout provides a good entry way into the story for young folks which makes it perfect reading for school curriculums. If the novel had been from an adult point of view, I don't think high school students would have been able to identify with the characters or develop an interest in the plot as they would with a much younger character. Overall I am very glad I took the opportunity to finally read this book after so many years. Now on to the movie!

Disclaimer: I got a copy of this book from Harper Perennial for hosting a giveaway for the 50th anniversary of the movie on my film blog.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Armin

Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Armin

From Goodreads:
"May 7th—There were days last winter when I danced for sheer joy out in my frost-bound garden in spite of my years and children. But I did it behind a bush, having a due regard for the decencies..." In this novel, Elizabeth's uniquely witty pen records each season in her beloved garden, where she escapes from the stifling routine of the indoors—servants, meals, domestic routine, and the presence of her overbearing husband.

I came upon this title when I was listening to one of NPR's weekly book podcasts. It was presented in the segment Cowslips to Kingcups: Finding Joy in the Garden and I was won over immediately. I downloaded the audio version from Audible and listened to it. What hooked me in about the book was the presenter's claims that the book represents happiness in solitude and overall contentedness in a way that virtually no other book can.

I was disappointed with the book possibly because of my high expectations. Elizabeth and Her German Garden has no plot which for my intents and purposes is fine but may be difficult for others. The book is a year in the life diary and reads more as slice of life than as a complete story. It's a semi-autobiographical tale of a woman named Elizabeth who lives in a country side abode in Germany and has a delightful garden. She lives simply and in happy solitude. It's the presence of her misogynistic husband the Man of Wrath, her children who are all referred to by the months they were born in and her two visitors that poke a hole in her bubble of happiness. If they would just let her alone to be with her garden, her birds, her salads and her solitude, she would be the most content.

What made me unhappy while reading this was the Man of Wrath's proclamations of what he considers the ineptitude of women. He basically thinks we are all morons who can't form intelligent thoughts and only want to gossip, sew and cook.  It's comforting to see that the three women who are listening to the Man of Wrath's rant are horrified and know that what he is saying is based on male chauvinism rather than accepted ideas. Also, it greatly disturbed me that Elizabeth would capture a family of owls just because she can (they eventually come to a tragic end). It shows the mindset of the 19th century (the book was first published in 1898) in which man plays god with nature.

I love 19th century books and can usually place ideologies in context but this book was plain boring. I wanted it to be poetic prose about the solitude and splendor of living in the country than about the year in the life of Elizabeth and her motley crew.

On the audio version: I listened to the Blackstone Audio version narrated by Nadia May. I was disappointed in the narration. There were many (many many many) pauses in between sentences. It felt as though they recorded the book sentence by sentence and pieced it together. Nadia May does a good job with the German accents but otherwise it was a poor narration overall. This is one of the few times that I think it would have been better if I read the printed version instead of the audio.

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language
by Steven Pinker
Audio CDs
Brilliance Audio
December 2011

Language is a very complicated thing. How do we learn it? Why are there so many languages? Is it from nature or nurture? Or a bit of both? Are our brains hard-wired to learn language from birth? Is language an instinct?

Steven Pinker is one of the world's leading experts on language and the mind. In The Language Instinct, he seeks to prove one thing: that language is an instinct we are born with.

Pinker draws from various sources including Noam Chomsky but relies a lot on his own studies. He explores the complexity of grammar and speech and demonstrates in many, many ways how these are just too complex to be simply taught and that we must be hard-wired to be able to develop an understanding of the rules of grammars and the various exceptions. He also explores the way in which language learning can be altered or partially lost due to mental illness, brain injury or other unfortunate circumstances.

This book is an excellent source of knowledge especially if you are interested in linguistics. I took a Linguistics course in college as an undergrad and always wished I could study it more. Hence, why I decided to read this book. However, the book was so very dry. It barely kept my interest. I think there were a few factors at play. Pinker tried too hard to be funny. Sometimes so hard that it became uncomfortable. He made a joke about those people who correct others for using "hopefully" in an incorrect manner. He said it's like telling someone Cleveland is really Cincinnati and Cincinnati is really Cleveland. I'm one of those people so I felt pretty insulted. He also made several jokes at the expense of Red Sox fans which I thought were completely unnecessary. Other times Pinker makes really interesting observations like comparing different languages to different species of animals. For example, fox and wolf and English and German are of the same ancestor/origin but are different species/languages with a long list of differentiating characteristics. I also enjoyed little trivia bits like the fact that "orange" was really "norange" but the "n" dropped off. I had hope for more of that and less of the sad jokes.

I don't think it helped my case that I listened to the book on audio. The narrator was so-so and had a voice that was a bit monotone for my taste. It hurt the narration that the text was so dry and that it went on for 19 hours. It took me a few months to listen to this book just because I needed breaks on a regular basis.

If you are a linguistics enthusiast or a linguistics student, I do recommend this book. Perhaps in paperback or ebook and not audio. If you are just a person with a passing interest in linguistics, find something else.

Photo by Sammy Davis Jr. by Burt Boyar

This review originally appeared on Out of the Past ~ A Classic Film Blog

Photo by Sammy Davis Jr.
by Burt Boyar
ISBN 9780061146053
It Books
February 2007

"Jerry [Lewis] gave me my first important camera, my first 35 millimeter during the Ciro's period, early '50s... I met Milton [Greene]. He got me involved with serious photography and using available light." - Sammy Davis Jr.

We always see collections of images of the stars, captured by professional photographers for us to marvel at and enjoy. But it's very rare that we see images from the stars' perspective. Photo by Sammy Davis Jr. is a collection of photographs that the entertainer took of his friends, fellow Rat Packers, family and colleagues during the '50s and '60s. Sammy Davis Jr. had a way with a camera. He captured some of the most amazing people in the entertainment industry in the most intimate settings.

Burt and Jane Boyar were close friends of Sammy's. Jane helped Sammy with his autobiographies and Burt compiled this photo book after both Sammy and Jane passed away. However, the problem with friends writing about friends is that inevitably there will be some bias. Of course the author is going to want to portray Sammy Davis, Jr. in the best light possible. My husband didn't believe the author's claims that he left his family with a lot of money especially after he read from several other books and sources that Sammy had been in very deep debt at the time of his passing. The author pulls out figures and even bank names and deposit amounts to prove his point. Who do we believe? A friend, a family member or a third-party? It's hard to say.

The text of the book is not that great. The font is made to be pleasing to the eye to look at but it's actually hard on the eyes to read. The author discusses Sammy's relationship with some of the key figures in the book in one or two pages for each. The text rambles on, Sammy's words are paraphrased, quoted, sometimes both all at once. It's actually a bit boring and I found myself abandoning several sections of writing. Get this book for the images. Not the words.

Because the photographs are spectacular. Sammy had an eye for photography. And he was surrounded by some of the most fabulous people in show business and he captured them in both happy and vulnerable moments. His photographs give us a visual point-of-view that only a star like himself would have had during that time.

Stars include: 
Jerry Lewis (on the cover)
Kim Novak (lots of intimate picture of her from when they dated)
Kirk Douglas
Dean Martin
Lauren Bacall
Humphrey Bogart
Betty Grable
Shirley Maclaine
and many more

There are also pictures of Sammy's second wife May Britt, his daughter Tracey and his two adopted sons with May. There are photographs of Sammy's entertainer father, his mother, and a few of the girlfriends he's had a long the way. My favorite photographs are the self-portraits Sammy did with mirrors. Sammy Davis Jr. also liked talking photographs of people in everyday life but his celebrity made him too obvious to his subjects. So he often took photos from hotel balconies and windows or he went incognito into the streets to take pictures.

Sammy Davis Jr. was the epitome of a self-taught man. He never had any schooling and was raised in the entertainment business. Everything he learned he learned by himself or by the example of others. Including photography.

If you are a fan of Sammy Davis Jr. and of the stars of the 1950s and 1960s, get this book! It'll be a wonderful addition to your coffee table collection or to your home library.

Disclosure: I bought this book for my husband as a thank you present and he lent it to me for this review.

Image Source: Vanity Fair

On Reading Moby Dick and Moby Dick Big Read

I've been struggling with reading Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I was never assigned the novel in High School or even as an English Major in Undergrad and Grad school. And I never had any interest. But since my good friend Mark is currently working on a project of which Moby Dick is significantly influential, so I decided to give it a go and added it to my Classics Club Challenge list.

I'm currently on chapter 58 and I'm struggling. There are 136 chapters and I am not quite far enough into the text to power through. I'm languishing. I asked my friend Mark for help. He told me that the book is very flawed and is in need of editing which it didn't receive before it was published. It's disjointed, there are chapters that can be taken out and it was not how Melville intended it to be. Knowing that helps a bit.

Blogger Jill from A Room of One's Own [Update: blog is now defunct] posted about a new online event called Moby Dick Big Read. It started a couple days ago. Each day they post an audio clip of one full chapter being read by a different actor or narrator. They also post some relevant art material. It's such a genius idea! I would have to wait until 11/12 in order to get to the point where I'm at in the book to start the project. I might wait until they get to chapter 50 instead of chapter 58 because the last few chapters I read of Moby Dick didn't quite sink in. Or I might start even earlier! Who knows. The project would be complete by January of 2013. I wanted to finish Moby Dick by the end of this month but I don't think this is the kind of book to be rushed.

Are you going to participate in Moby Dick Big Read?

Questionnaire on Reading & Books - September 2012

I saw this questionnaire on Boston Bibliophile as part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I thought I'd use the same questionnaire for here!

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
I don't eat while I read. I make a point not to as I think eating and reading should be savored separately. Doing both at the same time you can't fully appreciate one or the other.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
I hate marking books. I avoided it in college. One time I had to mark up a biography about the three Roosevelts. I used pencil but I hated the experience so much. That poor book! I am still traumatized by the experience. I'd rather make notes on separate pieces of paper with page #s and leave the papers inside the book for future reference.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
Bookmark. I'll use anything. Receipts, business cards, empty envelopes, etc. I would never dog-ear a book.

Laying the book flat open?
I live to preserve the spine so I don't do that. I used to work in a bookstore and had to talk to a customer. She spent the entire time opening the spine of a brand new book she didn't even buy. It was quite horrifying. I guess I'm particular about books. :-)

Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Non-fiction and fiction is only classics now. I've been dealing with a lot of issues when it comes to Fiction. I just don't find the joy in it I used to. In fact, fiction just angers me right now. I'm not sure what to do about it.

Hard copy or audiobooks? or ebooks?
All of the above. I love hard copies the best but there is nothing quite like a well-narrated audio book. Ebooks are okay but I don't own a eReader. I do use one for work and that's how I read manuscripts and ARCs. Otherwise, I'm more of a hard copy or audio kind of gal.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
I have to be able to put down a book at any point. I don't like it but I have to cram in reading whenever I can and sometimes that means only a page or two. I try to read during my lunch breaks at work and at that point I try to finish at least a whole chapter.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
Yes. It becomes a bit cumbersome when reading classics. Especially Thomas Hardy!

What are you currently reading?
The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Languages by Steven Pinker (I love linguistics)
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson Book #4 by Robert A. Caro(This book just fascinates me.)
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy (I love Mad Men and do some advertising for a living. Want to learn more about it)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville (for the Classics Club challenge)
Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home by Various(we are in the process of buying a new home)

What is the last book you bought?
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson Book #4 by Robert A. Caro - I saw it at a Barnes & Noble and I just had to have it.

Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time?
I never read one book at a time. If I did, I'd go crazy. I need several books going at once. I try to read one book for fun, one book for learning and one book for work. But sometimes that doesn't happen. Right now, I'm trying to make sure that I always have one classic novel going so I can keep on track for my Classics Club challenge of reading 50 classics in 5 years.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
I like to read in my car during my lunch break. It's nice quiet time. It's tricky during the summer because my car gets hot!

Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
Stand-alone books. I'm almost never compelled to read books in a series. If it's a trilogy, maybe, but not a series.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
Not really. I like to recommend books based on specific people and circumstances. One book I really loved might not be well received by a lot of people. I do have a talent of placing a particular book with the right person.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
As you can see above, I'm reading a book about buying a new home. We live in a small 2 bedroom condo and a lot of books are in storage. The books I do have out are organized by subject. I have 2 shelves of classic film books, 1 shelf of cookbooks, 1 shelf of literary fiction, 1 tiny shelf of children's books, etc. I have one shelf devoted to books I haven't read and want to read soon. My TBR shelf!

Classic Hollywood Style by Caroline Young

Classic Hollywood Style
by Caroline Young
October 2012
224 pages
Hardcover ISBN 9780711233751
Frances Lincoln

This review originally appeared on my classic film blog Out of the Past.

I cannot tell you how many times someone has come up to me to tell me that my outfit looks like something from an old movie. Or they point out something I would like because it's old Hollywood style. I just really love the fashion (as well as the design) of classic movies. So, a book like Caroline Young's Classic Hollywood Style is right up my alley.

Caroline Young's background is in Literature, Film and Journalism but her love and appreciation of classic Hollywood fashion is quite evident in this book. She takes a look at 34 films starting with Camille (1921) and ending with The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Other notable films include Gone With the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1942),  Gilda (1946), The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). There is a nice mix of popular films as well as some lesser known ones. There are 3 films from the 1920s, 7 films from the 1930s, 8 films from the 1940s, 11 films from the 1950s and 4 films from the 1960s. Each movie gets 3 spreads, 6 pages total with a couple movies getting an extra spread, 2 pages. There are many full page images but the focus really is on the text. Young explores the decision making of the fashion, the relationship between designer and star, the cultural influence of the film's fashion as well as the role the fashion plays in each film.

This book is nice and compact and is beautiful enough to serve as a small coffee table book but can easily be shelved as well. Basically, you want to read the book, not just look at the pretty pictures. The book is chockfull of great anecdotes and trivia bits. It's a really good choice for someone who is either into fashion or into classic films or both. There are no spoilers so if you haven't watched one of the films discussed then the movie won't be ruined for you. There were only a couple films I wasn't interested in but for the most part each film was a delight to read about. I hadn't realized how iconic certain outfits really are and how we identify certain films by those very outfits. The wife-beater on Marlon Brando, the white negligee on Elizabeth Taylor, the red windbreaker on James Dean, the white flowing dress on Marilyn Monroe, the green curtain dress on Vivien Leigh, etc. I don't even need to mention which outfit went with what film. You automatically know what it was just by the image.

I thought it was interesting that Young decided to end the list with 1968 when the Hays Code was put to an end. Young claims that with the end of the Hays Code there was a more towards realism because now filmmakers had more freedom to show what they wanted on screen. So the lack of realism in designer fashioned masterpieces didn't fit the new era of film. Designers became more like shoppers rather than artists. This is why fashion in film these days isn't as important as it was back then and why so many of us mourn for the style of old Hollywood.

My biggest issue with the book was a glaring error found in the section about The Dancing Lady (1933) with Joan Crawford. Young says "... in the 1930s she was the reigning queen of MGM." Oh hell no! You did NOT just diss the real 1930s Queen of MGM who was...

Norma Shearer!

Norma Shearer WAS the Queen of MGM. That was her actual title. Movie stars were often given titles or tag lines that were used in the promotion of their movies. Norma Shearer was Queen of MGM, Clark Gable was King of Hollywood, Sterling Hayden was "The Most Beautiful Man in Movies", etc. Norma Shearer was the Queen of MGM and no matter how much this author loves Joan Crawford it's not going to change the fact that Joan Crawford hated Norma Shearer because Shearer was the Queen and Crawford wanted the title for herself. The author tends to favor Joan Crawford featuring her more times in the book than any other actress. Joan Crawford was very influential to fashion with the clothes she wore on film. It was quite common for stores to start carrying Joan Crawford inspired pieces for the masses.  However, NORMA SHEARER WAS STILL THE QUEEN OF MGM!

There were a couple other instances of the author making similar statements but the others seemed more based on fact rather than this Joan Crawford one. There were no Norma Shearer movies in the book. While Norma Shearer wore amazing clothes I don't think she was as influential in fashion as Joan Crawford so I understand her absence. But I'm still offended by the statement.

However, the book is very well-researched with an appendix full of sources including interviews, newspaper articles, press releases, biographies, production notes, etc. Let's just hope that the author and publisher can fix that Joan Crawford line to read "in the 1930s she was one of the biggest stars of MGM" which would have been more accurate.

If you love Classic Hollywood fashion and are willing to overlook the Norma Shearer-Joan Crawford gaffe, then pick up this book! It's quite a treat.

Disclosure: Thank you to Frances Lincoln Limited Publishers for a review copy of the book

The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates

The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates

An innocent tax collector visits the home of a family of tax-evaders in rural England. He has no clue what he is getting into. Will he make it out of the home alive? Or will he stay in their clutches forever?

You could spin the concept of the book as a dramatic thriller. But really The Darling Buds of May by H.E. Bates is one of the most charming novels you'll ever read. It follows the story of Charlie (Cedric Charlton) a young man who works for the local tax office. He's been sent out to the Larkin's home in Kent to talk about their taxes. Or for that matter, the income taxes they've never paid. Ever.

A visit that was only supposed to last a couple hours ends up lasting an entire month with Larkin's luring him in to their country ways. There is Pa Larkin, a farmer who knows how to barter and to mix a very strong cocktail. His income primarily comes from trading goods. In fact, he's not sure what income really is. To him it's all "out"come! The Larkin's are very well-fed bunch, feasting on full English breakfasts, desserts and heavy dinners. Not to mention all the alcohol. Make sure you don't read the book on an empty stomach or you might start salivating.

The book starts when Ma Larkin tells Pa Larkin that their eldest daughter Mariette (of 5 children) is pregnant. And not only is it out-of-wedlock, Mariette can't figure out who the father is. That's pretty darn scandalous even for today. But the Larkin's are free-thinkers and don't care to judge their daughter. Pa thinks it's purrfec' (his favorite word) either way.

When Charlie comes to visit the Larkin's have a dilemma. They like the guy but they don't want to pay taxes. A series of events that both charm and confuse Charlie send him on a whirlwind. He's stuffed with food, given too much alcohol and the beautiful and nubile Mariette is hypnotizing him. The novel introduces you to a lovely bunch of characters and a look into the charmed world of the Larkin's.

What impresses me about H.E. Bates' novel is how seemingly innocent it is. For a moment, you are entranced, much like Charlie is, with the family and their unconventional ways that you forget what society told you was wrong and you just have fun. When you read this, you want to move in with the Larkin's! I love Bates' prose. He refers to the romantic elements of nature in the prose to enhance the bucolic setting. I love the last line in which the four main characters are looking out the window onto the property while listening to the nightingales in the background.

There really is no plot or rising action in the book. It's really just a slice of life kind of tale. You follow their adventures. The only real tension one can find in the book is whether Charlie will leave the Larkin's or if they will convince him to stay.

I first became familiar with the story of the Larkin's and Charlie through the British TV mini-series from the early 1990s by the same name. Each part of the mini-series is devoted to one of the 5 books in the Larkin family series. I have to say, I'm impressed with the producers of the mini-series as they kept very true to the original books. The charm, the dialogue, the characters, nothing is changed. It's all is how H.E. Bates presents it in the book. The American film version The Mating Game (1959) however is a very loose Americanized interpretation of the book and makes a lot of changes so it could pass the censors strict guidelines.

I listened to this book on audio. It was read by Bruce Montague who I think did a superb job with the narration. Even with his somewhat deep British voice he managed to do well with the female characters. His voice was soothing which complemented the book quite nicely.

There are five books in the series as listed below. A few of them are available on Amazon and but not all. You'd have to order from if you want the complete set. The first book The Darling Buds of May is available on audio from

The Darling Buds of May
A Breath of French Air
When the Green Woods Laugh
Oh! To Be in England!
A Little of What You Fancy

If you are a fan of books like I Captured the Castle or Cold Comfort Farm , then I would recommend you read this. If you are a fan of the series, then you MUST read this. I had such an enjoyable time with the book that I didn't want it to end. I hope I can manage to get all the books in the set. The Larkin's made me want to stay with them forever.

The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess by Lou Schuler

The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess
by Lou Schuler and various
Paperback ISBN 9781583333396
December 2007
Penguin Group - Avery

Let's get one important fact out of the way before I start this review. This book is written by a man. Lou Schuler wrote The New Rules of Lifting and The Testosterone Advantage Plan, both of which are books specifically for men. Schuler has also written extensively for Men's Health. However, this does not make Schuler's experience and expertise any less valuable. He also addresses this gender issue at the very beginning. He wrote The New Rules of Lifting for Women for two reasons: 1) he got a lot of requests from women to write it and 2) the way a women builds muscle is much different than how a man does. Schuler addresses the latter very extensively in the beginning of the book.

This book provides a whole different way of looking at weight loss and exercise. First of all, the whole "eat less, exercise more" idea is flipped on it's head. If you eat less, then your body has less fuel for exercise. And not only will you burn fat but you'll also lose muscle mass. For those of us who appreciate what muscles do for us (they burn fat on their own!), the idea of losing muscle mass is quite scary. Also, Schuler makes several interesting points about how too much cardio leads to muscle loss. He emphasizes more high-intensity cardio done for less amount of time. So those 1 hour runs you've been doing are not necessary. Schuler's focus here is primarily muscle gain and fat loss and NOT weight loss.

There are technically three authors listed but I found that the whole book seemed to be in Schuler's voice. Alwyn Cosgrove (a man) provides the exercises and Cassandra Forsythe, M.S. (a woman) provides the recipes and meal plans. Otherwise, it's all Schuler.

I have a very conflicted history with exercise. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s I had terrible gym teachers who never taught me anything valuable about exercise. I was weaker than your average student. I couldn't do sit-ups, pull-ups or even run a mile (when they forced me to run a mile cold I would cough up blood because I pushed myself to run too hard). I was never taught to train to do those things or to even warm up. I was treated as part of a group rather than as an individual. Even though I had weak arms, abs, ankles and lungs, I was a very active child. I did all sorts of dancing (tap, jazz, modern, hip-hop, even gymnastics and ballet!), roller skated, rode my bike, played outside and loved sports. I hated gym class because I was always forced to do more than my body could handle. As an adult, this previous experience with terrible gym teachers has scarred me. I could never trust a personal trainer. Also I could never join any sort of exercise class because of the humiliation those gym teachers put me through in front of the other students. I'm all about exercising alone, listening to my body, and pushing myself on my own terms (and not to what others think I should be able to do).

So reading this book was a bit of a trial. I have heard so many conflicting information about weight loss and exercise I don't know who to trust any more. Should I trust this author? He seems to know what he's talking about. I like the exercises shown and have already started to do some of them. And I very much want to be a physically strong woman. Schuler spends a lot of time talking his ideas through which is very good. However, you don't get to the meal plans or the exercises until half way through the book. So expect a lot of talking!

Schuler's tone is very assuring yet stern. He tells you like it is but is also very encouraging. He's pretty much what you would want out of a personal trainer.

I would recommend this book to any woman who wants to be physically stronger and is sick of the hamster wheel that is endless cardio. If you like to work out alone, this is a good book. You'll have some guidance but it's up to you to put the advice and the exercises into practice.

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