December 28, 2014

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkhola Estes

Admittedly I thought this was going to be a book about women who were raised in the wild (or raised by wolves, that sort of folklore) as that is what the title and subtitle seemed to indicate. I was wrong. This is more of a psychoanalysis book and self-help than a book on myths.

Estes has taken a collection of myths and stories from folklore and dissected them one by one into telling the story of the female subconscious. The motives and actions, the restrictions society has placed on the "wild woman" and the way that women can rediscover their wildness. She gives little lessons and advice for those who have been brought down by society and describes the process of suppressing a woman's instincts. The myths themselves are told regularly and then she adds her interpretation to the mix, showing how it relates to female psychology.

This book is all about women. Men are mentioned but only in relation to women. And more often than not they are the oppressors. Although there are a few mentions of men who encourage the wildness in women. The books total theme was one of oppression though, and I was a bit surprised that even when she was encouraging wildness and restoring women back to themselves, she kept referring to arts, and childbirth, and barely a mention of science. It almost seemed like her vision of taking the female self back was still pretty traditional. She wanted a stronger woman, but one that could paint or write and take back her creativity. This might not be very empowering for those women who rather than have strong skills in the arts, are good in the sciences or math. It just didn't seem to be all encompassing.

I liked the myths in the book but did not enjoy how she dissected one story over and over and over. Once would have been sufficient as I found myself growing bored with the tedium of her repetitiveness. I think at some points it was just an effort to make the book longer. And all of the writing was at that level of descriptiveness. So many words to say the same thing over and over. It made the book a bit of a slog. But, returning back to the myths I think she chose some interesting ones, and there were some that I had never heard before, such as the tale of Baba Yaga and the armless girl. She had a nice variety.

I think this book would have been immensely better if it had been edited down. It had interesting concepts but they were lost in the sheer amount of words and the explanations were repetitive. I just can't recommend it based on that.

Women Who Run With the Wolves
Copyright 1992
520 pages

Brush Cat by Jack McEnany

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a logger in the North?  So do I, however, I don't think I know anymore about what it's like to be an actual logger, just what the journalist's experience was.

McEnany moved North and immediately became fascinated with the logging industry.  He tried to make friends with the locals and got himself invited out as free labor a few times.  He covers some of the figures, some of the equipment, and mostly the people in this book.

Some of them are characters.  He profiles a few of the loggers, the actor Rusty Dewees, and birlers.  Although the loggers and their activities take up the majority of the book.  He also talks a lot about his experiences personally.  I think the loggers were the most interesting, especially the one that did yoga!

I would have liked more actual logging figures.  There wer quite a few already but but I found them very interesting.  More so than his personal foibles with chainsaws.  The stories made this more memoir than non-fiction general.  I'm also not sure where the term brush cat came from.  I think the author made it up as all I could find was an equipment part named that.  I think a more known name for loggers would have been appropriate.

A decent book but not as in depth on the logging industry as I expected. Less memoir and more facts would have made it great.

Brush Cat
Copyright 2009
226 pages

December 16, 2014

No River Too Wide by Emilie Richards

I should start off by saying that No River Too Wide is part of a series.  But that doesn't really matter.  I haven't read any of the other books and I didn't really feel like I was missing too much information to really get the full story out of this one.  It was quite wonderful on its own.  There were a few flaws, but nothing that made the book a drag to read through.

Jan Stoddard has finally had enough.  Having been abused by her husband for the length of their entire marriage, now that she has a chance to escape she's going to.  She's not sure if he's just messing with her by not coming home, but it's the opportunity she needs to flee the state.  But in the midst of her flight she accidentally burns the house down and knows that she must get word to her daughter that she's fine and got out alive.  But her daughter isn't willing to lose her mother a second time and convinces her to settle down in Asheville nearby so they can finally be together without fear of her father.  But there's a chance he's out there looking, and there's only a few they can really trust.

First off, Jan is an excellent character.  She really embodies what an abused woman faces and the thought processes that they have.  But she was still strong and resilient, which proves that anyone can recover from abuse if they get the right kind of help.  Her daughter I didn't like quite as well but that's probably because she waffled from one extreme emotion to another.  Which is perfectly natural, it just didn't endear her to me.  They were the main characters but they were supported by a cast of other characters that were well rounded and added to the story instead of just merely being there as fillers.  Taylor especially helped the story flow and it was kind of her story as well since she interacted with everyone and had her own chapters.  My only complaint about the characters would be the need for the author to have everyone "paired up" by the end of the story.  Sometimes that just feels unnecessary and not life-like.

This story is about abuse.  And recovery from abuse.  And reactions to abuse.  And it is all pretty accurate.  Granted everyone experiences something a little different, but a lot of the premises are the same.  The honeymoon stage, the whittling away of self, the people believe it should be easy to leave an abuser.  Dead on.  So the author did their research or has experienced it themselves, they just didn't make up situations.  And I think it's great that it came in this type of a book format as it may reach some people who don't know as much about domestic violence.  I do think that the ending happened a little too easy and wasn't as realistic as the rest of the book.  But this is a feel good book, so I can't say it was out of character for the book. 

This was a hard one to put down.  I definitely lost some sleep while reading it.  And now, having read it, I'm interested in going back and reading others by the author.

No River Too Wide
Copyright 2014
485 pages

**This book was received through the Amazon Vine Program**

December 08, 2014

Curry: The Story of the Nation's Favorite Dish by Shrabani Basu

When you read this cover, Curry: The Story of the Nation's Favorite Dish, you expect it to be more about the actual dish curry and its origins.  Not quite, this is actually a book about how the dish impacted Britain, and to a larger extent Europe's food, grocery and restaurant businesses. 

Basu goes and explores how curry came to be a popular dish in Britain and the different people who brought it to its success.  She tells the history of the people who came up with the packaged dinners, the cold case dinners, the different restaurants, and the different regions of food that are cooked.  The book is more about the people than the food and it shows how they got to Britain and built their respective empires.

Since this book is about the people it tells from when they came to Britain (or their parents who started the business), where they came from, and how they built their business from humble beginnings into something larger.  It never really explores the people that eat the curries though, just the people that sell it.   And I'm still not sure I understand why it is such a popular cuisine in Britain even after reading this book.  I think a little more of the story on the other side of the plate would have been very helpful.

I also found this book a bit pretentious.  It only showed the empire builders, not the average family owned restaurant (unless it was Michelin starred in most cases).  It also had a disdain for formulaic curries and really "curried" favor with those that did something innovative.  I wanted to learn about the cuisine as a whole and it was hard to do that from this book because it just focused on the upper class eateries and the new dishes that were appearing with premium ingredients.  I wanted to know just what a formulaic curry was as it's not a description in my vocabulary and to see instances of it.

If you're looking for a restaurant guide to the finest Indian restaurant's in Britain this will be good but I think that there's a limited scope on the audience for this book.  Not enough about the food in my opinion.  When I read a book about food I want to almost taste it from the descriptions.  I couldn't do that here.

Curry:  The Story of the Nation's Favorite Dish
Copyright 2003
257 pages