She Wants It is a Hollywood film and television memoir by Jill Soloway. Jill is the writer/director of Amazon’s Transparent. Transparent is based on Jill’s real life.
Jill’s father was depressed and a mostly absent workaholic father during her childhood. After Jill and her sister, Faith, went to college, their parents divorced.
During an early morning phone call, Jill is the first family member to which her father comes out to as trans. Jill’s first thought is this is part of her story and she was going to tell it. If her father can become Carrie London, why can’t she become the film writer/director she always aspired to be?
Jill polished up an old script and it was green-lighted. After post-production is complete and Afternoon Delight is submitted to Sundance, Jill goes with Faith to meet their father for the first time as a woman. When her terminally ill aunt asks her to deliver a card to her father asking him not to dress as a woman at the aunt’s funeral, she begins writing Transparent.
She Wants It is a great memoir of how someone hurtles the obstacles of getting a screenplay developed in Hollywood. It also incorporates a bit about Jill’s life as a wife and mother of two. There are many psychological asides about life and her own journey to understanding the non-binary world. I was expecting more about the real-life childhood experiences of having a trans parent. However, for those looking for a Hollywood memoir, this is a good choice. It just wasn’t what I was looking for and I never felt connected to the author though her personal story is heartfelt. 3 stars.
Thanks to Crown Publishing and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Hollywood, memoir, Oct 16 2018
From Mary Shelley’s 1818 book to The Munsters and beyond, the Vault of Frankenstein is an extensively researched look at the impact of a single book published 200 years ago.
“Only Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan and Dracula have appeared more often in media than Frankenstein’s monster.”
Not bad for a nineteen-year-old first-time writer who only wrote the horror tale on a dare from two older published poets. Her real story is almost as famous as the monster himself. It opens the Bride of Frankenstein and was the entire plot of three other movies.
The Vault of Frankenstein explores how a book written so long ago has inspired so many interpretations. Emphasizing movies and television shows, the book also briefly summarizes plays and books based on Frankenstein. The illustrations include pages from the first edition books, engravings of locations, playbills, movie posters, candid production shots, and movie stills. The final chapter goes beyond film into cereal, cartoons, comics, dolls, models, and music in the Frankenstein genre.
I consider myself a horror fan. I even had the Frankenstein model shown in this book. However, I learned many new facts from the Vault of Frankenstein. Who knew the original silent 1910 Frankenstein film is 13 minutes long, restored and available on YouTube? Or that Igor (or his original incarnation, Fritz) was a device used by plays and movies so the audience would know Dr. Frankenstein’s thoughts? He wasn’t in the book at all.
The Vault of Frankenstein is perfect for a horror fan or Frankenstein memorabilia collector. The hardcover includes replicas of book manuscript pages, a playbill, movie posters, and stills. This book is a fascinating deep dive into Frankenstein lore. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Becker & Meyer, and NetGalley for granting my wish and providing me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Horror, Non-fiction Tagged with: monsters, movies, Oct 16 2018
A true crime memoir that reads like a thriller! The takedown of the notorious street gang, MS-13, is described in Operation Devil Horns.
“A special agent is never—ever—off duty.”
MS-13 expanded from El Salvador throughout Central America to Los Angeles and finally San Francisco’s Mission District. Local cops were unable to stop the gang’s crime and violence. The city’s sanctuary status ties their hands. Sanctuary cities vow not to deport illegal aliens or help the federal government to do so, which takes away a significant law enforcement tool. The San Francisco Police Department was unable to deport illegals to break up the gang. Enter the feds.
Santini, a federal special agent, finds two gang members, Diego and Casper, to report on the gang’s activities. By threatening them with deportation and offering the carrot of legality and witness protection, he was able to turn two hardcore gang bangers into rats. His goal was to use the federal RICO statute, already used to break up mafia families, against the 20th Street MS-13 gang.
Operation Devil Horns is a superb book. It is perfect for true crime and mafia fans. However, it is also highly recommended for thriller readers. I loved getting a behind the scenes story about how gangs work and how law enforcement brings them down. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: memoir, Oct 9 2018, true crime
The wild wild West is alive and well high above Palm Springs in the Mojave Desert. Low Life in the Desert tells the allegedly true tale of Pioneertown in the early noughties.
David, an Australian journalist, moves to Los Angeles to be with his girlfriend, Boo, who is writing a Disney film about Australians. When he first arrives, they move into a pre-gentrified Venice Beach. The local police assure him that the best way to solve his problem with his rich, white, utterly insane crackhead neighbor is to shoot him and then drag the body onto his property. After respectively declining, the LA SWAT team uses tear gas to arrest the neighbor. Deciding they have had enough of Venice, they find LA real estate too expensive and decide to buy a house in the high desert.
Boulder House is a house literally carved from boulders and mountainside. On 17 and a half acres, the house is massive and includes a pool. All for $200,000. The nearest town is Pioneertown. Built in the 1940s to film the popular movie and later television westerns, the town is now full of iconoclasts, ex-cons and bikers. The residents stage a “shootout” every Sunday at dusk even when no tourists appear to watch. Low Life in the High Desert is the fish-out-of-water tale of David and Boo becoming desertized.
It is nice to read a memoir and to drop into the most exciting moments of someone else’s life. Low Life in the High Desert is a fascinating episodic look into life in the margins of society. However, the episodic nature is part of the problem with this book. Some episodes seem to have been added only to reach a certain page length. A story about Palm Springs’ gay, drunken Hollywood history and another about a burlesque museum don’t seem to fit into the main story at all. The main story is interesting, however, and worthy of 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Scribe US, and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: memoir, Sep 17 2018
All kinds of lunches, dinners and holiday meals are included in Simply Bento.
This cookbook includes Japanese, sandwich, noodle, rice and sushi bento recipes. It has a full chapter featuring vegan bento recipes and another for low carb bento. Each entree’s recipe comes with suggestions for side dishes and a make-ahead plan. Most recipes include a beautiful full color picture.
As a lover of Japanese culture through manga and anime, I want to create a real bento box for myself. Only three things stand in my way: being gluten free; not having any time to cook anything, even breakfast, in the morning; and not being a great chef. While this cookbook doesn’t provide allergen information, the recipe ingredients can be easily reviewed and substituted if necessary. The second issue means that almost all of these recipes have to wait for the weekend for me (and I assume many others) to have the time to cook them. Many of the cooking techniques require at least a medium skill set. If you are a beginning chef, it’s probably better to start with an easier book.
I loved the instructions for loading up your pantry with Japanese staples. Simply Bento includes instructions to make most of the Japanese sauces, like teriyaki and sweet and sour, from scratch. I also loved the cute side dishes like cherry tomatoes stuffed with cottage cheese and Tako (octopus) Sausage made with cocktail franks. Some of the recipes are traditional Japanese and some are Americanized like Taco Rice, Hamburger and Hot Dog Bento.
Love Japanese culture? want to try something different for lunch? Have an extra 30 minutes in the morning and some good knife skills? Simply Bento is highly recommended for you. Unfortunately, due to the lack of nutritional information, I have to take off 1 star leaving Simply Bento with 4 stars.
Thanks to Quarto, Race Point Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: Cookbook, Japanese, Oct 9 2018
“Making a no-budget indie film is like going to war. But you’re not General MacArthur storming the beaches with a force of a hundred thousand soldiers. Instead, you’re more like a small squad of Vietcong guerillas behind enemy lines, trying to complete an impossible mission using guile and your wits, the odds stacked against you. It’s risky, difficult, and dangerous. I can swear to it. I’ve been there.”
–from the prologue of True Indie.
Beginning with a middle school film called The Fish Movie, the author’s life was filled with dreams of filming Hollywood blockbusters. Borrowing money from his father at 18 to make his first feature film, Coscarelli sells it to Universal Studios for a cool quarter million dollars. Turning down a seven-year contract at Universal and previewing his first feature, Story of a Teenager, the same week as the blockbuster Jaws debuted brought his studio career to a swift end. He was 20 years old.
If you have any interest in film, this memoir is a fabulous backstage look at the process. It is also a great look at someone realizing his childhood dream. The writing style is excellent. It feels like your middle-aged neighbor is talking about his long-ago exploits. There are plenty of secrets from Coscarelli’s films. You can’t ask more from a Hollywood memoir than the story of a True Indie. 5 stars!
Now I just need to watch Phantasm again to truly appreciate the difficulties of filming on the down low with no budget. Okay, I’m back. The author was listed in the credits as the writer, director, cinematographer, and editor. His dad was the producer. Talk about True Indie! It was a much better experience watching the movie knowing some of the filming challenges. On to my favorite film by the author, John Dies at the End.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: memoir, movies, Oct 2 2018
Containing fifty delicious sounding recipes, the Gluten-free Instant Pot Cookbook is both a flavor booster and a time saver for gluten-free cooks.
Beginning with a cheesy poblano frittata breakfast, savory creamy polenta and various soups like spicy butternut squash, this cookbook has a bit of everything. Who knew you could make lasagna in an instant pot? Or saffron risotto (with no more endless stirring)? The dessert chapter sounds particularly yummy filled with tasty treats like rice and bread pudding plus a to-die-for double chocolate fudge cheesecake. There are also easy bone broths for paleo fans.
Recipes are clearly labeled with other common allergens like dairy, egg, soy, and nut. There are vegan and vegetarian recipes included too. The only issue I have is the total lack of pictures or nutritional information. The pictures can be found on the author’s Heritage Cook food blog so I’m not sure why they aren’t in the book.
The recipes are surprisingly innovative. For example, the Shrimp and Grits recipe uses the Pot’s saute function to cook the aromatics first. The sauce is then covered with a trivet and bowl to cook the grits. After a short time, the grits are removed and the shrimp is added to the sauce for heating. It is very innovative to cook everything in one instant pot making the Gluten-free Instant Pot Cookbook a perfect gift for a college student with an instant pot but little else to cook within a dorm room.
The recipes are worth 5 stars. However, the complete lack of pictures and nutritional information brings my rating down to 4.
Thanks to Fair Winds Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Cookbook, gluten-free, Sep 18 2018
“The vast majority of dieters who lose weight will gain it all back within three to five years.” To permanently lose the weight, the author suggests that dieters must Think Yourself Thin.
Beginning with the five stages of weight loss: Fed Up, Honeymoon, Stall (weight-loss plateau), Ideal Weight and Maintaining, the author reviews what could go wrong. Her solution is:
Finally, the author includes a 30-day mental mastery plan and quite a few success stories. The plan includes journaling thoughts, meditating, mindfulness, prayer, and visualizing success.
I’m disappointed that there isn’t much new in Think Yourself Thin. For the author of the 10-day Green Smoothie Challenge, I expected more originality. However, if you haven’t already read a diet book addressing the mental aspects of dieting, this would be a good choice. Think Yourself Thin motivates the reader with its Can Do attitude. The success stories at the end encourage by the variety of ways these people overcome various challenges and finally lost the weight. 3.5 stars.
Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Diet, Sep 25 2018
Everything a beginning weaver needs to start Weaving on a Little Loom.
This book has clear and concise instructions—most with pictures or diagrams. It begins with the tools needed. Next, the author describes the different weaving and edging techniques. Finally, there are five project plans: a wall hanging, a clutch bag, a placemat, a pillow and a larger tote or laptop bag. What is nicer are the explanations of how to plan your own projects from the conceptual drawings to yarn selection to spec sheet creation. The spec sheet includes all the detail about the project allowing it to be replicated later.
I love the easy “friend talking about their favorite hobby” feel of the text. The author, by clearly laying out the requirements, makes weaving sound less intimidating than in other instructional books. I especially like the low cash outlay necessary to see if weaving is for you. A reader could do their first small project using only inexpensive yarn, a cardboard loom, a finger skein shuttle, a standard dinner fork, a ruler and scissors. Overall, if you are interested in trying weaving, Weaving on a Little Loom is a great book to jumpstart your success. 4 stars!
Thanks to Princeton Architectural Press and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: crafting, makers, Sep 18 2018
Rising Out of Hatred is the fascinating true story of how a heir apparent to a white nationalist dynasty turned away from hate.
Home schooled by his racist family, Derek Black seemed on a path to hatred. Derek was a frequent contributor to his father’s prominent white nationalist website. He also had his own white nationalist radio talk show. Derek believed what he had been taught to believe by his family, friends and co-workers. When he subsequently attends a liberal college, he realizes that people that look different from himself are not that different inside.
An inside look at the white nationalist movement along with a possible reason for all the devisiveness in politics and life today. Is it as simple as getting to know your demonized enemy better? We have all met racists who have exceptions for some people of the ostrasized nationality while still being suspicious of the rest of their race. I doubt it is as simple to change viewpoints as Rising Out of Hatred describes for most racists. However, it is a good way to begin a dialogue with the “others” in our world. 4 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Doubleday Books, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: racism, Sep 18 2018
How to Invent Everything is “a complete cheat sheet to civilization”. You’re welcome.
Beginning with hilarious FAQs about your new state-of-the-art FC3000 rental market time machine, the book then explains how to invent everything and restart civilization in case the machine breaks down in the past. It starts at a basic level of civilization, language, and continues all the way through making computers to do all the work. Along the way it touches on math, science, agriculture, zoology, nutrition, sexuality, philosophy, art, music and basic medicine.
When I initially picked How to Invent Everything on Edelweiss+, I thought it was non-fiction. Imagine my surprise and delight when I quickly realized it was fictional in the vein of my favorite book, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Except it starts in the future and goes backwards to present day. Sorta. Alas, it is both fiction and non-fiction at the same time. Good luck, time travelers, sorting it out.
This is a very interesting book. It includes actual recipes for creating items. However, there is also a disclaimer in the front stating no one is responsible if something happens to you while using the recipes so hmmm. I liked How to Invent Everything for its humor and some of the information is interesting to know. It may be useful in case of a zombie (or other type of) apocalypse. However, if you are a doom’s day prepper, buy this book in paper format since who knows how long those solar chargers in your bug-out kit will be able to charge your kindle. 4 stars!
Thanks to Riverhead Books and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: civilization, makers, Sep 18 2018
Drink Me! has 25 cocktail recipes all linked to the plot of Alice in Wonderland.
Each recipe comes with a brief explanation of how it relates to the Alice in Wonderland story. For example, the Unbirthday Cake Martini uses cake frosting-infused vodka, hazelnut and raspberry liqueurs, and pineapple and lemon juice. With the rainbow sprinkle topping, you will want to drink this martini on all 364 of your unbirthdays this year. Drink Me! also has recipes for creating the special infusions used in the book. I have never heard of a fat-washed infusion before but I can see its usefulness beyond the recipes in this book.
Drink Me! is such an innovative idea. I can’t wait to combine my love of exotic cocktails with my love of Alice in Wonderland by having a themed party on Halloween. A great book for amateur or profession bartenders but even better for Alice fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Rock Point, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: Alice in Wonderland, cocktails, Sep 18 2018
The 21 Lessons for the 21st Century cover five broad areas: technology, politics, despair and hope, truth and resilience.
In the 1990s, it appeared that liberalism had won its war with communism and facism. Even Russia had become, nominally at least, democratic. During the Trump and Brexit era, liberalism is once again on the ropes. Trump has an agenda of liberty only for Americans with a wall forcing foreigners to stay out. England, with Brexit, is attempting to limit liberty to only their own citizens too.
What is replacing liberalism? Nationalism and nostalgia for each country’s most prosperous time in history is being felt by both the US, England and even Russia with Putin and his tsarist fantasies. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century attempts to give some suggestions for where we should go idealogically from here. Per the book, in the shadow of the coming biotech and infotech revolutions with the threat of ecological collapse looming, zenophobia will not be easy or effective.
During the industrial revolution, machines replaced mankind’s physical abilities by moving heavy objects and speeding up processes beyond what man could do. With the recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI), machines may soon be able to replace mankind’s thinking abilities too. When that happens, what advantage will man have over machine? Worse, what jobs will be available?
Once AI advances to replace soldiers, what will prevent rich megalomaniacs from taking over the world? Once biotechnology allows the DNA manipulation of humans into superhumans, how will the rest of us survive? This and other ominous questions are asked throughout this book. Only the last few chapters have anything positive to say about mankind’s near future.
While this is an important book to read, its unfailingly grim view is tough to take on. Even though the future may not contain conscious robots like in the Terminator, it still seems pretty scary. While it seems credulous to say so, current times may be looked back on as the good ol’ days by our grandchildren.
If you lean toward depression or always see the glass as half empty, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century may not be a good reading choice. If you are staunchly religious, this book pushes secularism rather heavily. It goes so far as to call religion the most long lasting fake news. Also, if you are a Trump or Putin fan, be aware that both are demonized within this book. Because this book reflects more of the author’s views than any scholarly appraisal of trends or even actual events, I can only give it 2 stars. I think it will anger or scare most readers more than inform them. Such a shame and disappointment from the highly acclaimed author of Sapiens and Homo Deus.
Thanks to the publisher, Random House, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: history, near future, Sep 4 2018
Sleepyhead is a great resource for those that either have trouble falling asleep or staying awake.
The author suffers from narcolepsy and frequently falls asleep at inappropriate times. He relates his own story and states that the average time before narcolepsy diagnosis is 15 years. However, Sleepyhead goes further than just narcolepsy. It also contains the possible reasons for other sleep disorders like SCN. SCN is the molecular circuit that controls when your body wants to sleep and rise. Many people do not have a 24-hour cycle meaning that they go to sleep and rise at variable times each day. Even moving your bedtime by 15 minutes per day either earlier or later makes a large difference over the course of a year. The book also discusses seasonal effective disorder and insomnia as well as the impact of daylight savings time on a body’s sleep cycle.
The best part of the book for me was the author’s note at the end that tells readers how to find more information about their particular sleep issue. In addition, Sleepyhead has comprehensive end notes referencing all the sources of the information in the book. The end notes make up 20% of the book. Sleepyhead is a great resource for the sleep-challenged among us. 4 stars!
Thanks to Perseus Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: Sep 4 2018, sleep
Worldwide, beer is the second most popular beverage (after coffee). No wonder everyone wants to Drink Beer Think Beer.
With only four basic ingredients—water, malt, hops and yeast—it is staggering how many beer varieties are available now. With breweries popping up everywhere and even inexpensive home brewery kits available online, beer is definitely experiencing a renaissance from its former bowling league ambience.
Beginning with a brief history of beer, the book quickly segues into the eccentric world of craft beers. Beers are made with some very unusual add-on ingredients. Some of the weirdest that are mentioned are beef hearts, stones, money and moon dust though the author admits that some are just publicity stunts or solely for collectors—not drinkers.
This is a absorbing study of a favorite subject of many. Whether you like beer to drink, collect or are just following the trends, Drink Beer Think Beer is a good choice to make you more knowledgeable about beer. 3 stars for me but if you love craft beer, this could easily be a 5 star read for you.
Thanks to Perseus Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: beer, Sep 4 2018
From its start as a dream in Mattel’s eye, this is the story of Hot Wheels written by one of the first designers.
Realizing that model cars would be more fun if you could race them, Mattel had a hit with its innovative Hot Wheels cars and tracks. The cars were designed by real gearheads who were basing their models on popular souped-up cars from 1960s car mags. The designers were pulled from Detroit’s car makers by letting them design an entire, though 1/64th scale, car rather than only a small piece of a real car.
I loved Hot Wheels as a kid and snatched this book quickly off of NetGalley. The pictures of vintage Hot Wheels certainly brought back memories of my own cars. While the pictures are awesome, the story of how something completely different was created from the ground up is the star. This is a tale of how business innovation works. Have a great idea. Ignore the naysayers. Hire a great staff. Don’t rest on your laurels but keep reinvigorating your product line.
A great choice for the Hot Wheels fan. It also would be fantastic for that entrepreneur wannabe in your life. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Motorbooks, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: cars, history, Sep 4 2018, Toys