Book Reviews

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Delicious recipes, family stories, and an inseparable bond between parent and child make My Father’s Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow a touching standout from other recently-published celebrity cookbooks.

The roots for My Father’s Daughter began years ago with a giant supply of spaghetti and meatballs.  Paltrow was eighteen years old when her mother, actress Blythe Danner, was away working in New York.  Danner had kind-heartedly over-stocked the freezer with the spaghetti for Paltrow and her father, Bruce, but they were “meatballed out” and desperate to try something different – like cooking.

At the time of their drastic decision, neither Paltrow nor her father knew much about preparing meals except that they liked eating good food and tasting new dishes.  As they experimented with ingredients, they began watching the cooking channel together and learning basic things like the best way to chop an onion. Soon this determined father-daughter duo, which was already close, discovered that working together in the kitchen strengthened their parent-child bond even more.    

In this tell-all book, Italian journalist Luca Rastello presents the story of an anonymous cocaine smuggler, referred to only as the Market, who gives an account of the war on drugs from his perspective.

With anecdotes spanning the continents of Europe, North and South America, and time periods ranging from the 1970s through the early 2000s, I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, In Five Easy Lessons would easily rise to the level of a globe-trotting Robert Ludlum thriller, if it wasn’t a real-life narrative of the global cocaine enterprise.

I first picked up this book because of its brazen and risqué title, though it was probably the teasing details in the jacket cover of the smugglers’ creative, ever-evolving tactics that got me reading: the drug-sniffing dogs provided to the police by kennels run by smugglers; the coca dissolved in water, hidden in electrical cables and building cranes; and the small-scale couriers who get caught as part of the overall plan to distract from larger shipments. As the Market says, “Nothing is better hidden than that which is in full view.”

We all know Barbara Walters as the poised interviewer who asks the tough questions. She’s broken ground for women in the broadcasting industry; first on NBC’s Today Show, and later on ABC’s 20/20 and The View.

She's the woman who can get the scoop on everyone else … but what’s her story? Did she always have ambitions to become the household name she is today? Would she have done anything differently? You might be surprised at the path that Walters has taken, which she describes in her 2008 memoir, Audition.

Walters takes us back to the beginning: how her parents met, what life was like as the child of a risk-taking show producer, and how she felt as a young woman with little direction. We see a glimpse of a young Walters before the television specials and the interviews. Like anyone else, Walters was struggling with the demands of home and family life while her career was blossoming at NBC.

What we didn’t see on TV were her professional struggles with co-workers that almost drove her out of the business before ever finding her foothold with the network. If Walters had stood back and allowed others to stop her from moving forward with her career, we might never have known the talent she is today.

For many men, the fantasy of escaping the drudgery of their daily lives includes strapping on a sabre, affecting an accent, a-swashin’ and a-bucklin’ through the rigging, clutching a buxom wench, a pint o’ ale and a parrot spewing colorful invective.

If that seems like too many objects to juggle, it’s his fantasy. He can handle it.

Women already know how to juggle (bring home bacon, fry in pan, it’s all part of a day’s work). All we need to escape is a couple of candles, a jar of aromatic bath salts, a good book, and a lock on the bathroom door. Historical fiction can be the highest form of escapist literature as it thoroughly transports the reader to a time and place completely different from current circumstances.

And a good historical novel can be the equivalent of a capful of the most decadent soap bubbles, removing the reader from a life slightly ordinary to one wholly (though temporarily) remarkable.

Go ahead, ladies. Choose your own adventure.

Storyville, Lois Battle

It wasn’t enough for Ernest Hemingway to be one of the largest literary lions of the 20th century. His written works brought him celebrity and his many marriages, dalliances, and adventures were fodder for tabloids.

There was no experience too much for Hemingway to take on. From his wartime experiences on the Italian front in World War I, covering the Spanish Civil War, and his observations of D-Day and the liberation of Paris. He traded lofty ideas with Gertrude Stein’s set in Paris, rode out the Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys, nearly died while on safari in the Serengeti, and awarded Fidel Castro a trophy in the Hemingway marlin fishing contest.

Hemingway lived as large as he wrote. Other writers have noticed this trait, and instead of writing biographies, they have chosen to cast Hemingway as a character in their own fiction. While Papa never takes center stage in these books, he often proves the most colorful and lively of supporting characters, and his fictional escapades fit nicely with his real ones. A reader could almost believe Hemingway really did help solve a crime, visit a boy’s school, or was the object of tumultuous affection between two female friends in Paris.

Toros and Torsos, Craig McDonald

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