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Review: Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl (April 2, 2019 / Random House)
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Goodreads Summary:
Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.

When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America's oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone's boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl's leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media--the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down.
Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams--even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.

My Review: 
I've always been a magazine lover. From Highlights in grade school to my teen magazines (Sassy, YM, Seventeen) in middle school, and my obsession with fashion magazines in high school. I loved that there was a world out there that was full of animals and adventures, fashionable high school students, and edgy and elegant women living it up in the big city. As a mom and wife I looked for answers of how to feed my family and make a happy home in every homemaking and cooking magazine I could find. It took until my late 30s to figure out that I can take in all the information I find in magazines but I don't need to measure my worth against them. Just like I enjoy reading about or watching the antics of Anna Wintour, I am not building my day around her thoughts--as you would see from my daily uniform of yoga pants. Same for Ruth Reichl. She's lived a life totally submerged in the food trends of New York, pursued culinary travels through Europe, and run the top food magazine before the internet consumed almost all traditional media. I admire her career and empathized with her struggles to juggle her career with being a mother, but I also felt a disconnect when she discussed some aspects of working in the magazine industry. I enjoyed the behind the scenes views she provided but with the constantly rotating cast of characters I found myself wanting to know why this or that coworker with this or that background now had this this title.  

Quick summary: This is a memoir of a food writer with a focus on her career and the who's who of Conde Nast/Gourmet in the aughts. While interesting, I wanted more personal food stories. 

Eco-Living Inspiration

Eco-Living Inspiration
A collection of new releases to help you live a greener life

by Rhiannon Johnson
photography provided by publishers

From cleaning to decor and design, these books can help you reduce waste and daily chemical exposures while living a more sustainable and intentional lifestyle.

The Natural Apothecary: Baking Soda: Tips for Home, Health and Beauty by Dr. Penny Stanway
Reduce your chemical exposure and use of disposable plastic packaging by harnessing the power of bicarbonate of soda to create eco-friendly cleaners and health and beauty products. Over 40 included recipes will help you embrace this amazing natural ingredient to regain control of what you are putting in your home and on your body.

Natural Style: Using Organic and Eco-Conscious Materials for Earth-Friendly Designs by Janet Sobesky
This earth-friendly guide includes the latest information on organic fabrics, natural flooring materials, low VOC paints, energy-efficient lighting options, and more for every room in your home. Focused on the environmental impact of design choices, Natural Style offers home design ideas with a conscience by showing how to use organic and eco-conscious materials to suit your sustainable lifestyle.

Decorating with Plants: What to Choose, Ways to Style, and How to Make Them Thrive by Baylor Chapman
From air purification to pest control, there’s no limit to what houseplants can do for your home—but where do you begin? Learn simple, foundational information to ensure your plants will thrive, along with room by room suggestions for your home with this complete guide to “greening” your space.

Live Green: 52 Steps for a More Sustainable Life by Jen Chillingsworth, illustrated by Amelia Flower
No matter where you are on your journey to adopt a greener lifestyle, you may want to do more—but you aren’t sure where to start. This practical guide offers 52 tips and changes you can make to your home and lifestyle over the course of a year to help you achieve a more sustainable existence. Learn how to modify your daily habits and get the most out of life by living more intentionally.

Waste Not: Make a Big Difference by Throwing Away Less by Erin Rhoads
Our lives are often full of disposable items: shrink-wrapped veggies, disposable coffee cups, fast fashion clothing, and electronics designed to be upgraded every year—but small changes can have a big impact. Commentator on zero-waste living and one of Australia's most popular eco-bloggers Erin Rhoads, aka The Rogue Ginger, shares her funny and far-from-perfect journey to living with less waste.

Natural Living Style: Inspirational ideas for a beautiful and sustainable home by Selina Lake
Create a simple and stylish home that is as natural, plastic-free, and sustainable as possible by incorporating the concepts of natural decor, living simply, mindful consumption, recycling, upcycling, reducing plastic waste, green gardening, and growing your own produce. Full of eco-friendly tips and hints this book will inspire those who want to lighten their footprint on the planet, beginning in their own home.

This article appeared in the following April issues: 

Buckhaven Lifestyle
Alpharetta Lifestyle

Perimeter North Lifestyle 

Review: The Book of Flora (The Road to Nowhere #3) by Meg Elison

The Book of Flora (The Road to Nowhere #3) by Meg Elison  (releasing April 23, 2019 from 47North)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  

Goodreads Summary: 
In this Philip K. Dick Award–winning series, one woman’s unknowable destiny depends on a bold new step in human evolution. In the wake of the apocalypse, Flora has come of age in a highly gendered post-plague society where females have become a precious, coveted, hunted, and endangered commodity. But Flora does not participate in the economy that trades in bodies. An anathema in a world that prizes procreation above all else, she is an outsider everywhere she goes, including the thriving all-female city of Shy. Now navigating a blighted landscape, Flora, her friends, and a sullen young slave she adopts as her own child leave their oppressive pasts behind to find their place in the world. They seek refuge aboard a ship where gender is fluid, where the dynamic is uneasy, and where rumors flow of a bold new reproductive strategy.
When the promise of a miraculous hope for humanity’s future tears Flora’s makeshift family asunder, she must choose: protect the safe haven she’s built or risk everything to defy oppression, whatever its provenance.

My Review:
I loved the first two books in this series: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and The Book of Etta (check out my reviews for those HERE and HERE). I'm all about a feminist dystopian novel and while some have been weak (*ahem...Red Clocks...ahem*) Meg Elison delivers a post apocalyptic story full of characters who pull you in and make you invested in whatever comes next! Part Mad Max, part The Giver, but all original, this series is really one of my favorites and I can't wait for the next installment already! I definitely recommend this to lovers of Margaret Atwood's Maddaddam series, dystopia lovers, or anyone looking to read about a wide variety of gender identification, themes, and struggles. 

Review: The Women's War by Jenna Glass

The Women's War by Jenna Glass (March 5, 2019 / Del Rey)
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

ARC summary:
When a nobleman’s first duty is to produce a male heir, women have always been treated like possessions and bargaining chips. But now, as the aftereffects of a world-altering spell ripple out, women at last have a bargaining chip of their own. Alys is the widowed mother of two teenage children, and the disinherited daughter of a king. Her existence has been carefully proscribed, but now she discovers a fierce talent not only for politics but also for magic. Meanwhile, in a neighboring kingdom, young Ellin finds herself unexpectedly on the throne after the sudden death of everyone who stood before her in the line of succession. Conventional wisdom holds that she will marry quickly, then surrender the throne to her new husband...only Ellin has other ideas. The tensions tearing at both kingdoms become abruptly worse when a caravan of exiled women and their escort of disgraced soldiers stumble upon a new source of magic in what was once uninhabitable desert. This new and revolutionary magic—which only women can wield—threatens to tear down what is left of the patriarchy. And the men who currently hold power would do anything to destroy it.

My Review:
I am trying to read outside my comfort zone and this high fantasy feminist epic totally rocked! This novel is all about female power,  not just with unprecedented royal ascension but with a unique spell which allows women the ability to control their own fertility and wield a unique product of revenge if they are sexually assaulted. At 546 pages it did take me a while to get through it but it was not because I lacked interest in the story at any point. This is also the first in a series and like any great series, there is a twist ending that gave me the chills! I definitely recommend this one to lovers of epic fantasy novels or to someone (like me) who is looking for something a little different from mainstream fiction but features fabulous female storylines. 

Review: Mastering Meal Prep by Pamela Ellgen

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I'm a meal planner and over the years I've made every type of breakfast (grab and go), dinner (juggling 4 different mealtimes), and lunch (from PB&J brown bags and kids' lunches to my on-the-go salads or sandwiches when I was working and going to school what felt like around the clock). I've learned a thing or two but I can see how making a week's worth of meals could be overwhelming to a novice. Mastering Meal Prep offers weekly menus, grocery lists (lots of fresh, whole, natural foods), prep-day schedules, and time-saving tips to show you how one hour on the weekend can free up huge amounts of time during your busy work week. Each week is broken down with foundation recipes and unique meal suggestions created from reworking each recipe. 

Do you kick yourself for eating fast food and wish you would have spent a little time planning ahead so you could eat something more nutritious? Or maybe you just can't stand the idea of taking another frozen meal out of the microwave? Maybe you have tried meal prepping but you're simply making a single meal that you will eat all week (boring!) Mastering Meal Prep is the ultimate meal prep tool for beginners! If you are not yet a pro in the kitchen or you're not sure how to plan your meals for the week then this book is for you! It also gave me a lot of inspiration for my menu planning. 

Review: The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee

The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee (March 12, 2019 from Scribner)
Back Cover:
In this innovative work of history, Edward Wilson-Lee tells the extraordinary story of Hernando Colón, a singular visionary of the printing press-age who also happened to be Christopher Columbus’s illegitimate son.

At the peak of the Age of Exploration, Hernando traveled with Columbus on his final voyage to the New World, a journey that ended in disaster, bloody mutiny, and shipwreck. After Columbus’s death in 1506, the eighteen-year-old Hernando sought to continue—and surpass—his father’s campaign to explore the boundaries of the known world by building a library that would collect everything ever printed: a vast holding organized by summaries and catalogues, the first ever search engine for the exploding diversity of written matter as the printing press proliferated across Europe. Hernando restlessly and obsessively amassed his collection based on the groundbreaking conviction that a library of universal knowledge should include “all books, in all languages and on all subjects,” even material often dismissed as ephemeral trash: ballads, erotica, newsletters, popular images, romances, fables. The loss of part of his collection to another maritime disaster in 1522—documented in his poignant Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books—set off the final scramble to complete this sublime project, a race against time to realize a vision of near-impossible perfection.

Edward Wilson-Lee’s account of Hernando’s life is a testimony to the beautiful madness of booklovers, a plunge into sixteenth-century Europe’s information revolution, and a reflection of the passion and intrigues that lie beneath our own attempts to bring order to the world today.

My Review:
I now have a special place in my heart for Hernando Colón. His collections and organizational systems are totally mind-boggling and absolutely fascinating. As a "natural son" (not the product of a legitimate union) Colón could "win legitimacy only by showing himself to be his father's son in spirit." Colón strove to achieve this distinction by accumulating massive amounts of written works, printed images, music, and plants to create a collection that would far surpass any other collection of its time. Colón also kept meticulous details in multiple ledgers and created complex organizational systems. This book dives into some of Colón's collections, examines particular items in the collection, offers insight into why some items were especially important to Colón and analyzes why some were never discussed by the collector. 

This book is very dense and I wouldn't recommend it to the average book lover but if you're ready to go on a deep dig then this is the book for you! 

Review: Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister (3/5/19 from Sourcebooks)

**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Sisters Phoebe and Charlotte Smith are accustomed to the daily obligations of their high society San Francisco lives in 1888, but when an unwelcome marriage proposal for Charlotte causes Phoebe to lash out, she is sent to Goldengrove Asylum. Blaming herself for Phoebe's banishment, Charlotte decides to have herself committed, too--just like Nelly Bly, whose own undercover investigation both sisters had read about the previous year. 

While Charlotte is aware that what awaits her will be difficult, she is unaware of the specific injustices she and her fellow inmates will face. She learns that many inmates are there because they are an inconvenience to their families or don't adhere to rules of society, not because they are necessarily in need of mental health. 

Our modern knowledge of basic mental health makes some of the practices that occur in Goldengrove absolutely abhorrent by today's standards but it was intriguing to step inside the setting and imagine how the women not only bore the treatments but built alliances and friendships. 

This book is a solid 3 stars--a few unbelievable storyline points but an overall enjoyable read. I did have higher hopes for this since I loved her 2 previous novels, The Magician's Lie and Girl in Disguise

Review: The Wrong End of the Table by Ayser Salman

The Wrong End of the Table by Ayser Salman (3/5/2019 from Skyhorse)
**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**

Goodreads Summary:
You know that feeling of being at the wrong end of the table? Like you’re at a party but all the good stuff is happening out of earshot (#FOMO)? That’s life—especially for an immigrant.
What happens when a shy, awkward Arab girl with a weird name and an unfortunate propensity toward facial hair is uprooted from her comfortable (albeit fascist-regimed) homeland of Iraq and thrust into the cold, alien town of Columbus, Ohio—with its Egg McMuffins, Barbie dolls, and kids playing doctor everywhere you turned?

This is Ayser Salman’s story. First comes Emigration, then Naturalization, and finally Assimilation—trying to fit in among her blonde-haired, blue-eyed counterparts, and always feeling left out. On her journey to Americanhood, Ayser sees more naked butts at pre-kindergarten daycare that she would like, breaks one of her parents’ rules (“Thou shalt not participate as an actor in the school musical where a male cast member rests his head in thy lap”), and other things good Muslim Arab girls are not supposed to do. And, after the 9/11 attacks, she experiences the isolation of being a Muslim in her own country. It takes hours of therapy, fifty-five rounds of electrolysis, and some ill-advised romantic dalliances for Ayser to grow into a modern Arab American woman who embraces her cultural differences.

Part memoir and part how-not-to guide, The Wrong End of the Table is everything you wanted to know about Arabs but were afraid to ask, with chapters such as “Tattoos and Other National Security Risks,” “You Can’t Blame Everything on Your Period; Sometimes You’re Going to Be a Crazy Bitch: and Other Advice from Mom,” and even an open letter to Trump. This is the story of every American outsider on a path to find themselves in a country of beautiful diversity.

My Review:
This was a quick and funny read with lots of crazy stories complete with footnotes. Imagine telling all your funny and embarrassing stories from when you were in preschool through adulthood?! It takes a certain amount of courage to tell those stories and Ayser Salman doesn't shy away from sharing how left out she felt--how she always felt like she was at the wrong end of the table. She shares instances where she felt like she was at the wrong end of the table for being "too Muslim", "too American", "too shy", or "too outgoing". She struggled with what many of us did as teens--wanting to be recognized while also wanting to remain invisible. After feeling like she stuck out in a crowd most her life, Salman loved going to college: "I loved my new anonymity. No one cared who I was or looked twice in my direction--and it was bliss." I enjoyed reading about the situations she had that were similar to mine and ones that were unique to her. I especially loved how she used these stories as an opportunity to tell us we should all accept ourselves: "It's okay even if my Muslim behavior is different from the Muslim behavior you expect--all I know is it's real and authentically mine. And I hope that if any of you question your authenticity or legitimacy, you'll give yourselves a break, too.