Review: King of the Mild Frontier by Chris Crutcher

King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography
by Chris Crutcher
Rating: ***
Date read: 9/6/2013

I enjoyed this memoir. Crutcher’s upbringing was very unlike mine, but there were some commonalities. I really liked the way he talked about his process, how his life informs his books. I picked this out of my library’s audiobook pile because I thought I’d read one of his books, but it turns out I haven’t. I’m planning to in the future.

Review: Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Dad Is Fat
by Jim Gaffigan
Rating: *
Read 8/21/2013
I can’t remember why I put this on hold. I know that I was number six hundred and something when I did, and in the intervening months I’ve forgotten what made me think I’d like this. It’s entirely not my thing. It’s warm, fuzzy, cute (goodness gracious, the CUTE) and good. It’s about a man with a million children (maybe it’s actually five) and his long-suffering wife. It made me want to gouge my eyes out with a dull instrument.

 

Review: Nine Lives: A Chef’s Journey from Chaos to Control by Brandon Baltzley

Nine Lives: A Chef’s Journey from Chaos to Control
by Brandon Baltzley
Rating: ***
Read 8/3/2013
An interesting, if incomplete, autobiography. Incomplete because the author isn’t even 30 yet, and one hopes he will be cooking for a good long time yet. He’s had quite a struggle with crack cocaine, and though he details various of his binges and rehabs, he never talks much about the mental state he’s in at any given time. I would have liked better more interior detail and less exterior. He gets fired a lot, but one never really gets that he cares, or how he feels. He falls in and out of love a lot, but again, there’s no real insight into his feelings. And he’s kind of a know-it-all. But again, a very talented, relatively young man, which in my experience anyway, is another way of saying “kind of a know-it-all”.

It sounds like I didn’t much like the book, but I did. I really enjoyed the brief tours of many famous kitchens. I especially liked Baltzley’s way of talking about food. I never had any question how he felt about THAT, which is probably why I wanted more feelings about things other than food.

Review: Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother by Linda Greenlaw

Lifesaving Lessons: Notes from an Accidental Mother
by Linda Greenlaw
Rating: **
Read 8/3/2013

I have enjoyed Greenlaw’s previous memoirs. This one fell flat for me for a number of reasons. In her quest to protect the privacy of her young charge, much detail around the girl’s backstory is positively impenetrable. I don’t know if she was trying to fill up the book with other things to disguise this, or if she’s just gotten really boring- but I barely made it through the interminable bit about rescuing some chunk of fishing gear. Turns out I could have skipped that whole section, because it never comes up again. There are a lot of little dangling story bits throughout, and some of the most important and compelling sections of the story are merely alluded to in passing. It was mostly a frustrating book.

Review: The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman

The Making of a Chef
by Michael Ruhlman
Rating ***
Read 7/27/2013

Interesting though not riveting tale of a writer who goes to school at the CIA. I liked learning how Ruhlman made the transition in his head from “writer” to “cook” and I enjoyed the descriptions of the classes and the outsized personalities of the instructors. The narrator said ri-CO-tah instead of RI-CAH-teh, which bid fair to make me crazy every time. Yes, yes, I know it’s a perfectly acceptable alternate pronunciation. But it’s wrong to my ear.

Review: Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Wild
by Cheryl Strayed
Rating ****
Read 7/25/2013

This book made me want to run right out and hike the PCT. But not, you know, barefoot. Or broke. I was very involved throughout, and though much of the non-trail stuff made me cringe, the on-trail stuff kept me reading. I’m glad I read it, because it made me think that if she did okay on the trail, as woefully unprepared as she so clearly was, maybe I can do okay on it too.

Review: The Late Bloomer’s Revolution: A Memoir by Amy Cohen

The Late Bloomer’s Revolution
by Amy Cohen
Rating: *
Read 7/16/2013

I have GOT to start looking for the keyword “anxiety” in memoir blurbs so I will stay away. This memoir didn’t work for me, I found the tone pretty… well, whiny for the most part, though the ending was pretty strong. I couldn’t find enough to relate to here to keep my interest level high. Not my kind of thing.

Review: Still Points North by Leigh Newman

Still Points North
by Leigh Newman
Rating: ***
Read 5/31/2013

An interesting, involving memoir of a chaotic childhood full of dysfunctional adults, disintegrating relationships, strange relatives and the odd bear. The POV is insanely tight, almost claustrophobic. The writing is pure but the feelings are muddy, full of quicksand. The ending came too soon, the story wrapped up in an endearing but still jarring epilogue. My review copy courtesy of ALA Midwinter.

 

Review: Gun Guys: A Road Trip by Dan Baum

Gun Guys: A Road Trip
by Dan Baum
Rating: ****
Read 7/14/2013

I’m astonished at how I feel about this book, frankly. Because I picked it up between two fingers, with my nose wrinkled up and my eyes rolling like the teenager I sometimes act like when my gun guy father tells me to read something like… well, like what I thought this was going to be.

What it was, however, was the story of a liberal Democrat guy who grew up liking guns and how he jumped feet-first into US gun culture to understand it from the inside. It didn’t turn out the way Baum expected it to, either. He learned, and in turn explained to me, about what the average-guy-on-the-street-with-a-concealed-weapon was all about. And what hunters are doing out there. And the sports gun people. He talked to people who’ve been on both sides of guns, and if he told me the five rules of gun handling once, he told me a dozen times.

It’s a fair opening salvo (ahem) in the quest to have a dialogue between the anti-gun people and the gun people. It’s a tour of a United States that coexists invisibly with the one in which I’ve always lived. And it’s given me an awful lot to think about, made me if nothing else a little more aware of my own prejudices and assumptions.

Highly recommended.

Review: Lizz Free Or Die by Lizz Winstead

Lizz Free or Die
by Lizz Winstead
Rating: ***
Read 7/11/2013

I picked this up solely because I have a friend who spells her name Lizz, and I thought it would be fun to tell her I was reading this. Imagine my surprise when I found Winstead to be fascinating. I liked reading her story. She grew up around the same time I did, though her Catholic upbringing was far different, there were many cultural markers in common. Her abortion story is intense and important, NTM brave.┬áHer parents are hilarious, the way their story plays out poignant. I haven’t really seen the shows she worked on, though I have heard of them (I don’t live in a CAVE, just a LIBRARY).
The only part that turned me off was her need to make up words and define them throughout. Seemed labored and not funny.

Well worth a look.