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The Kitchen and the Studio

The Kitchen and The Studio: Memoirs of Food and Art by Mallory M. and John A. O’Connor is an alluring read. As the title implies, it combines a cookbook, an art book, and a memoir detailing the couple’s long and storied marriage. These elements are expertly blended to form a book that contemplates love, family, friendship, and the meals that bring us together.

We follow Mallory and John from their first meeting in a UC Davis art class in 1960 through moves, career changes, and heartaches over the next 60-plus years of their life together. Along the way, they share stories of the fascinating people they befriended and, of course, the food they shared with those people.

The book is beautifully illustrated, with stunning landscapes and still-lifes peppered throughout, along with photos and documents from the couples’ prosperous lives. Much of the art is by the co-author himself, though there are also some lovely pieces by the couple’s many friends in the field. I thought it was a nice detail that, rather than photos, many of the recipes are accompanied by paintings of the dish in question, bringing a personal touch you don’t often see in recipe books.

As someone interested in food history, this book was a fascinating resource. Coming from the perspective of one couple and how food has been a part of their own story and journey over the past 60 years, it tells a very personal story. In addition, the authors made sure to include some historical background for many of the dishes, which was incredibly enlightening.

The recipes sound delicious and include some more exotic ingredients that the standard household may not always have in stock. Readers may have to make adjustments when attempting to replicate these menus to take into account ingredient availability. This is one area I would have loved to have seen in this book, some substitution options for hard-to-find ingredients, just to make the dishes more accessible. That aside, this collection offers readers a chance to expand their cooking repertoire and experience something they might not have thought of trying. The authors have included in this informative book some helpful resources for those looking to experience the dishes for themselves, including a wine list and some information on small businesses that make quality ingredients.

The Kitchen and The Studio: Memoirs of Food and Art is a highly original presentation of food history and personal memoirs. The authors clearly have enjoyed their life together and share their passion for cooking with friends and family. The stunning artwork and poignant reflections make it an unforgettable read.

Pages 412

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It’s In Their DNA

It’s In Their DNA: What And Why Men And Women Do Not Ask And Do Not Answer is an eye-opening book by Dr. Owen Watson and Dr. Ramona Watson. The intent of this insightful book is to help single people who are looking for a partner or couples to better understand each other and if they are suited for one another.

The book is a compilation of questions and answers that men and women are too afraid to ask their partners or don’t want to give answers to. In order to avoid confusion, both authors explain that the DNA in this book does not stand for deoxyribonucleic acid; it stands for “do not ask” and “do not answer.” And the question topics cover various different parts of everyone’s lives, including their upbringing, financial status and spending preferences, past relationships and intimacy, education, professional profiles, gender, marriage, drinking, and use of substances, as well as questions that consider the relationship directly like how long do the partners see the relationship lasting, monogamy, love, etc.

The authors approach all the topics covered from a psychological, social, and biblical aspect in order to help individuals with their relationships and not waste time on partners that aren’t necessarily suited for them. This is not to say that we should end things at the very first inconvenience but on the contrary. The author points out that we all have those “this is not what I signed up for” moments, but we need to understand that that is precisely what we signed up for, and some characteristics and thoughts come to the surface as time passes. It is important to ask questions that are by nature uncomfortable and carefully observe our partner’s reaction, will they be content, have a change in attitude, or even be transparent, that will set us up for what’s to come.

Considering that the book covers various parts of life, both authors kept all the topics concise and straight to the point. The authors also managed to create a piece of work that is suitable for both the general public and academic researchers as a tool in their work.

I recommend this book to anyone in a relationship or searching for a partner, especially younger people who are so used to change and everything social media serves them and seem to quit on things when it gets complicated and messy. What we can all take away from this book is that when you water and take care of plants, they grow and bloom. It’s the same for people and relationships.

Pages: 172 | ASIN : B0B9R2TDV5

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The Book I Wanted to Read, But Couldn’t Find

Marcie Maxfield Author Interview

Em’s Awful Good Fortune follows a “tagalong wife” ex-pat who travels the world with her husband and is on a journey of self-discovery to find her own voice in the world. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Em’s Awful Good Fortune is the book I wanted to read, but couldn’t find, when I was living overseas. Most expat books are travelogues that focus on cultural exchange, language mishaps and strange food. I’m more interested in women’s issues. Having been a “tagalong wife,” I was able to use the international lifestyle as a backdrop for a different kind of story—what happens in a modern marriage when dual careers collide? I’m particularly interested in the imbalance that still exists between men and women, where women tend to do more than their share of multi-tasking and compromise.

Was there anything from your own life that you put into the characters in your novel?

Em’s story is grounded in lived experience, which is why the book has such an authentic, raw feel to it. That said, the characters are composites and extremes through which I explored Em’s basic dilemma: how can she make her marriage work if her own life doesn’t work.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Having lived in China during a catastrophic air pollution event, I initially set out to write about the real cost of rapid growth and industrialization on personal health and safety. But then, Em had a lot to say about marriage and compromise. And when I peeled back the layers to Em’s character, the issue of PTSD kept coming up. ParisTokyoShanghaiDetroit. The lasting impact that sexual assault has on a woman’s ability to live her fullest life without fear.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m working on a narrative non-fiction called Jew Girl. It’s about half done and I’ve got a 2024 pub date, so I need to finish it!

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Set against the backdrop of the expat lifestyle, Em’s Awful Good Fortune is about marriage—love and family, work and compromise, betrayal and heartbreak, resentment and resolution. Weaving back and forth in time and between cities and countries, Em’s booming voice—fierce, funny, and relatable—is the engine that drives this story. Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Detroit, Los Angeles and Seoul—Em stomps her way around the world on the personal journey to reimagine and reclaim her voice. True to life, this is a disorderly journey—one that ultimately leads to a new understanding of partnership and the complexity of relationships.

The FIFO Wives’ Tales

The Fifo Wives’ Tales by Yasmin Walter is a non-fiction book that explores the lives and minds of FIFO wives. FIFO stands for fly-in fly-out lifestyle. From far afar this lifestyle might seem luxurious and easy money, but with magnifying scopes, the reality emerges. All these wives have their share of challenges to cope with. Even when the money is abundant, it has sacrifices and struggles of its own. With each FIFO wife telling her own story, we get a peek into the variety of people involved in the FIFO lifestyle and the impact it has on different individuals.

Each of these FIFO wives shows us a part of their life and their struggles. Each one is unique in its way and yet has glaring similarities. This book breaks the misconceptions surrounding the FIFO lifestyle and how it is not for everyone. Even when they are not fully satisfied with this way of living, some things work out for these FIFO wives and they prefer to stay like that. It has its pros and cons, like any other industry.

As all the writings are by real-life women with their way of explaining their life, the writing style continues to change from wife to wife. It kept me interested and curious throughout the book. However, there are some instances of miscarriage, accidents, affairs, etc. which might trigger some people. FIFO wives have explored the physical and emotional stress their life and relationship go through and many of them have suggested ways to cope with them as well.

I was not aware of how harrowing it can be for both partners to manage their lifestyles around the FIFO lifestyle. Many people tend to compare the struggles of both the partners and rate one higher than the other; the reality is that they both are in this together, struggling in their ways and handling it as best as they can.

Yasmin Walter changes the way we look at FIFO couples and breaks misconceptions and preconceived notions we place upon them before we get to know them. I appreciated that the author has written this novel as a way for FIFO wives to support one another. I recommend this book to those who are curious about the FIFO lifestyle as Walters and the other FIFO wives share their stories, unfiltered.

Pages: 170 | ASIN : B09CC5Y5VK

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Love, Bruises & Bullsh!t

Love Bruises and Bullsh!t is an anthology book consisting of stories detailing abuse towards the different women who are featured. The book was compiled by Sheree Schonian & Yasmin Walter and features twenty different stories from different women who have experienced abuse. These stories deal with abuse from family and significant others and they share how the women involved have either dealt with that trauma or how that trauma affects the victim and their families. Some stories have names associated with them and some are left completely anonymous, demonstrating how hard coming forward and telling your story can be. Some of these stories are also told from the perspective of a child dealing with the abuse. That really added another level to the book, showing the abuse from all angles.

This is a book everyone should read, even if it makes you uncomfortable; especially if it makes you uncomfortable. That is because this book shows the true, sad reality of abuse from those who have experienced it firsthand. The two authors who compiled these stories, Sheree Schonian & Yasmin Walter, do a great job of choosing stories that have weight and really leave an impact on the reader. The definitions of the three pillars in the title, love bruises and bullsh!t, are given at the front of the book. This is a perfect introduction to the reader for what is to come and also gives insight into how it might be hard to see an abusive relationship while you are in it.

I appreciated that the authors added resources and statistics within the book, providing women with information on how to get help if needed. I especially loved the how to support someone section, as people who have not dealt with abuse might not know exactly how to help when they see someone in danger. That is a very important resource provided. This is a book everyone should read, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or experience of abuse because it shines a light on an issue that affects everyone but is rarely talked about.

Pages: 280 | ISBN: 0645255882

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Drunks: An Alcoholic Drama

Drunks by Ken Fry is a tale that’s deeply personal and dramatic and is an ultimately inspirational story that is told with an infusion of romance. This story is narrated by Alan Markham, the main character, and his journey and experiences with alcoholism, marriage, and learning to conquer and control addiction. Alan and his wife, Chrissy, appear to have the life everyone wants – Alan has a successful career, and Chrissy lives a free, luxurious, and enjoyable life. Still, just below the surface, there’s trouble in their marriage.

As both Alan and Chrissy struggle with their marriage and lives together, they share a common addiction, alcohol. While the couple attempts to keep an illusion of normalcy in their lives, they quickly descend into severe alcoholism, which impacts every level of their lives, from Alan’s career, their marriage, and financial stability. The author does an exceptional job of highlighting the compound impact of an alcoholic couple and how dangerous their health and lives become within a short time.

I enjoyed Ken Fry’s narration as Alan Markham and the gritty and realistic story that unfolds. It’s both sobering and inspirational. It does a fantastic job of stripping away the glamourous façade of sipping martinis and cocktails in upscale lounges and reveals the dark and tragic lives of alcoholics and their various struggles.

The author gives his characters interesting layers and shows how they appear successful and prestigious in their upper-class lifestyle while suffering from their addiction and dysfunction. Maintaining the appearance of perfection and success takes a toll on the couple, who eventually must face their inner struggles, and this dueling lifestyle makes for a compelling drama but a tragic life.

Ken Fry’s Drunks is a poignant yet inspirational story that focuses on the reality of what many couples face and how financial success can mask alcoholism. It’s an entertaining read that gives the reader an in-depth look at how codependency impacts people, even when they appear to be self-sufficient and content.

Pages: 336 | ASIN: B09HP26Q76

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Em’s Awful Good Fortune

Em’s Awful Good Fortune by Marcie Maxfield is a fantastic novel that masterfully displays all that goes inside the mind of a woman when her life is uprooted by her partner’s ambitions. Em has desires of her own: a good family and a career; but just when she thinks she might have things figured out, she realizes that life does not always go as you plan. For Em, getting married and having children was just another thing to check off a list to achieve the perfect, balanced life. However, she soon discovers that sharing a life with another person is not always smooth sailing. Pretty soon she agrees to give up her life and her ambitions so her husband can pursue his own. Em, tagging along with her husband, loses herself as she travels across big cities in various countries, resentment and anger growing, wondering if she’ll ever get to be happy again.

This novel’s greatness is based on one main thing, and that’s how realistic the story is. It is told from the perspective of the main character, Em, and you can’t help but immediately feel attached to her. You understand what she’s going through and how trapped she feels. Every feeling, every new thought she has is displayed in such a way that makes her feel very real as a character. She goes through many things and emotions, and every time I felt as if I was in her shoes, just based on the style of the narration.

Em’s life could appear from the outside as a luxurious adventure. Because of her husband’s job she gets to visit many cities, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai, Seoul… But it all comes with one price: she has to give up her life, her needs and desires. Understandably she starts to feel miserable, not knowing how to escape this awful fortune that’s befallen her.

This is a very detailed story of the life of a “tagalong wife”, and portrays excellently what so many women have gone through and still go through in their lives as mothers and wives: how many times they’ll have to give up their own unique traits and ambitions as a sort of “sacrifice” for the rest of the family. This book is not necessarily a feminist one, but it surely does open a discussion about how “violated” the life of a woman can become the moment that she loses herself to satisfy others around her at all costs.

Em’s Awful Good Fortune by Marcie Maxfield is a raw and realistic story that deals with complex topics such as family, relationships and finding one’s purpose in life. With an engaging narrative and immersive storyline it was hard to put the book down. By the end, despite the difficulties and the bad feelings that Em goes through, there’s one thing she’ll surely teach you: to stand up for yourself.

Pages: 241 | ASIN: B08QZ58FDC

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Learning To Balance Darkness And Light

Author Interview Patricia Leavy

Shooting Stars follows an author that meets the love of her life and realizes she must face the trauma of her past before they can live happily ever after. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

There’s an expression “hurt people hurt people.” Sometimes that isn’t true. Sometimes people in great pain are able to love others in extraordinary ways, and they only hurt themselves. That’s what I wanted to explore. I wanted to look at how people with both visible and invisible wounds can love each other unconditionally, and how in turn, that may help them heal.

Tess starts off confident but it is a facade, as that shell breaks away she transforms into a stronger person. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Tess is my favorite protagonist from any of my novels. In many ways, she’s an aspirational character. She’s enormously talented and successful, which has afforded her an enviable life on the surface. She’s also deeply kind—she sees the humanity in each person and treats others with grace. Despite all she has going for her, she’s haunted by trauma survived in her childhood, and for a long time she struggles to find any genuine happiness. While the details may differ and be more traumatic in Tess’s case, I think many of us carry deep wounds. So often people see our highlight reel on social media and may have a false sense of our lives, when in fact we may be struggling. So as I developed Tess, I wanted to peel back the layers, from what we see on the surface, to what she’s really dealing with on the inside.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

For me, this is a story about learning to balance darkness and light in our lives. It’s also about the healing power of love in all forms—romance, friendship, love of art, and love of community.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I fell so completely in love with Tess, Jack, and all their friends that after writing Shooting Stars I wrote 5 more novels based on these characters, for 6 in total. Each novel takes place about a year later—so it follows the characters for about 7 years. Each novel has its own story and theme; however, the collection as a whole also has an overarching narrative. It’s an epic love story about balancing darkness and light so that we may ultimately live in full color. There’s romance, laughter, tears, and some unexpected twists and turns. The title is Celestial Bodies: The Tess Lee and Jack Miller Novels and it comes out June 1. I’m so proud of it. Truly, of all my work it’s what I love and revisit the most. Reading it is a bit like being wrapped in a big hug. Here’s the amazon link:

Author Links: Twitter | Facebook | Website

Tess Lee is a novelist. Her inspirational books explore people’s innermost struggles and the human need to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Despite her extraordinary success, she’s been unable to find personal happiness. Jack Miller is a federal agent. After spending decades immersed in a violent world, a residue remains. He’s dedicated everything to his job, leaving nothing for himself. The night Tess and Jack meet, their connection is palpable. She examines the scars on his body and says, “I’ve never seen anyone whose outsides match my insides.” The two embark on an epic love story that asks the questions: What happens when people truly see each other? Can unconditional love change the way we see ourselves? Their friends are along for the ride: Omar, Tess’s sarcastic best friend who mysteriously calls her Butterfly; Joe, Jack’s friend from the Bureau who understands the sacrifices he’s made; and Bobby, Jack’s younger friend who never fails to lighten the mood. Shooting Stars is a novel about walking through our past traumas, moving from darkness to light, and the ways in which love – from lovers, friends, or the art we experience – heals us. Written as unfolding action, Shooting Stars is a poignant novel that moves fluidly between melancholy, humor, and joy. It can be read entirely for pleasure, selected for book clubs, or used as supplemental reading in a variety of courses in communication, psychology, social work, sociology, or women’s studies/gender studies.
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