16 September 2014

Today's Read: The Partner Track by Helen Wan

The Partner Track by Helen WanHow far would you go to further your career? What if you felt tremendous pressure from your family and from your community? These are very real concerns for Ingrid Young, who is on the verge of making partner at Parsons Valentine, a prestigious international law firm.

The Parsons Valentine dining room--affectionately known as the Jury Box--resembled nothing so much as a high school cafeteria, writ large. We were all older, sure, with expensive haircuts and finely tailored suits. The food was a lot better, and it was served on fine china, classic white with a platinum border. And then there was the view. Instead of a track or football field, our windows overlooked the grand expanse of Fifth Avenue and Central Park. No trophy cases or spirit banners, either, just a vast Ellsworth Kelly painting and a few signed Chuck Close prints adorning the otherwise stark white wall. But these were just trophies of a different sort.
The Partner Track by Helen Wan (St. Martin's Griffin [paperback], 2014, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: New York City; modern times
  • Circumstances: As Ingrid Young fights to make partner, she begins to wonder if she will advance on her merits or because she is a two-fer: a first-generation Chinese American and a woman. When an uncomfortable situation arises, she is forced to question the real costs of advancement in a white man's world.
  • Characters: Ingrid and her family; various fellow lawyers and clients; a love interest
  • Genre: contemporary fiction; women's fiction
  • Themes: family; ambition; corporate America; enduring discrimination; immigration; ethics
  • What reviewers have said: most reviews have mentioned the well-developed characters and the realism of Ingrid's situation; several mentioned Wan's use of humor to lighten the serious story line
  • A bit about the author: Helen Wan is herself a Chinese American lawyer and thus writes from a place of experience, although the book is entirely fiction. For an interview in which Wan talks about the book and herself, watch the BookGirl video on YouTube. More about Wan and her novel can be found on her website.
  • Recommendations: I haven't even started The Partner Track, but it looks like it would make a great book club pick based on the issues Ingrid faces.

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15 September 2014

Six Years of Beth Fish Reads: Thoughts

Over the weekend I passed my sixth year blogging as Beth Fish Reads. As I often do, I like to take the time to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going in the blogging world.

First, however, I have a question:

Is there any point in trying to find a balance between my online and offline life?
Seriously. I have spent six years chasing this elusive dream. I'm beginning to think there is no such place, and yet I haven't quite given up. Still, something always suffers. My current issue? I'm reading blogs on my tablet, which means I haven't been clicking through to leave a comment. No big deal, until I realize that I've barely been commenting at all. I'm going to work on that.

To make it worse, I've been spending Sundays offline (for the most part), which means I'm missing the immediacy of everyone's Sunday Salon posts, which are always so much fun to read. By Monday morning, I feel that I'm already behind. What to do, what to do?

If anyone has tips, suggestions, answers, or stories, I'd love to hear them.

Looking Back

The biggest change over the last year is that I've gotten over my need to have a new post up on the blog every single day. This has been a huge relief. I love having that self-imposed pressure off my back. Going by my steadily rising stats and traffic, my readers seem to be fine with this too.

The other major change is that I've written many fewer serious book reviews. Although I intend to return to longer, more in-depth analyses of at least some of the books I read, I needed the break. My reviews had lost a bit of their personality because I was falling into a formula instead of letting the book guide my writing. I have embraced my Bullet Review format, which sometimes appears as Today's Read (with Quick Facts and a teaser) and sometimes as a straight bullet list. Judging from my stats, you like the shorter format too.

Weekend Cooking has lost some its original contributors, but other bloggers have stepped in, so although the group has changed, the intimacy and camaraderie are still there. I love that it attracts book bloggers, photography bloggers, and food bloggers. I look forward to my Saturday post every week and love reading all of yours. For those of you haven't participated yet: Remember, you don't have to cook--share a food-related quote from a novel, a photograph of the farmers' market, a great meal at a restaurant, or whatever is remotely foodie. Note too, you do not have to post on the weekend, just link up on Saturday.

I have posted more than 300 Wordless Wednesday photos and have never missed a week since I started. I'm still very active on Instagram and love the photography community. (All the photos that appear here were originally posted to Instagram.) I even had the nerve to write a camera review post.

Looking Forward

I have a couple of new regular features in the works for Beth Fish Reads. There are so many great books out there I want to talk about and write about, even if I can't manage to read everything that comes into my house. I did some brainstorming and am excited about the results. I've also decided to revive some features I've let lapse, like Stacked-Up Book Thoughts.

The new format of Imprint Friday (which also recently included a look at a small press), is my first step in this direction. For example, I simply couldn't wait to tell you about some of the 2014 releases from Twelve Books (posted last Friday), and I liked writing about them even though I haven't finished reading (or even started) all of the books yet. Why wait?

So look for more book talk in the coming year to supplement my reviews.

You may have noticed an abundance of book-to-movie posts lately. This is a reflection of movie industry trends on the one hand and the fact that I'm now working with several publicists who deal primarily with movies, both theater and Blu-Ray releases. I hope to have some more great giveaways and other movie news in the coming year. Note that some of my movie posts are going up on my Tumblr blog and Facebook page.

You can also expect to see more Sound Recommendations, reviews of graphic novels, entries in my The Emerging e-Reader series, coverage of the Scholastic Mother-Daughter Book Club, and--of course--plain old reviews of what I've been reading.

Big Thanks

It's been said hundreds of times, but it never gets old. The very best part of blogging is not the opportunity to do fun things but the friendships I've made both online and in real life. Through those friendships, I've gained much more than expanding my reading horizons. The connections are real and strong, and I thank you all for more than I ever thought possible when I hit that publish button on September 13, 2008.

I plan on being around for a long, long time and I hope you all will be too.

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13 September 2014

Weekend Cooking: My Drunk Kitchen with Hannah Hart

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah HartDo you know Hannah Hart? Even if you don't know her name, the chances are good that you've heard about her My Drunk Kitchen YouTube videos, which started out as way for Hart to connect with a few friends and ended up being watched by a gazillion followers.

After about three years of videos, Hart's recipes, tips, and philosophy have been collected into book form. My Drunk Kitchen is full of good fun, adult humor, recipes of a sort, and lots of drinks.

Here's a warning, though: If you're looking for an actual cookbook with step-by-step instructions, timing, and oven temperatures, you might be a wee bit disappointed. On the other hand, if you put your pretensions aside, pour yourself a great big drink, look in your cupboards, and get crazily creative, you'll end up with a smile, even if you haven't managed to make dinner.

Hart's quirky sense of humor and playful outlook are evident throughout the book. And the designers have done her text and Robin Roemer's photos justice by using bright colors, slanted text, eye-catching fonts, and cute graphics.

Frankly, I don't know what else to say. You'll like Hannah Hart's humor or you won't. I don't love every episode, but I admire her generally upbeat attitude. The book was fun to read and would make a great gift for Hart's fans. The most important thing to remember is that My Drunk Kitchen is comedy, not a usable cookbook.

Here's a sample video, which gives you an idea of what Hannah Hart is all about. This episode appears in the book as the chapter titled "Things in a Blanket." Note that this video is not for family viewing. (Check out Thursdays: My Drunk Kitchen for all 95 videos.)

HarperCollins / Dey Street, 2014
ISBN-13: 9780062293039
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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12 September 2014

Imprint Friday: Twelve

Have you heard of Hachette Book Group's unique imprint Twelve? The amazing range of books and the singularity of the imprint's philosophy put Twelve on my favorite imprint list. Twelve was founded in 2005 with the idea of publishing a single, significant book each month. As the publisher explains, their goal is to offer:

Works that explain our culture; that illuminate, inspire, provoke, and entertain. We seek to establish communities of conversation surrounding our books. Talented authors deserve attention not only from publishers, but from readers as well. To sell the book is only the beginning of our mission. To build avid audiences of readers who are enriched by these works – that is our ultimate purpose.
I love the concept of finding twelve books that deserve individual attention and that belong on everyone's reading list. The books I'm featuring today (from the 2014 list) meet and exceed the imprint's desire to publish books that will make you think and that will prompt wide discussion. I haven't finished reading all of these titles yet, so look for full reviews in the coming weeks.

The Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPhersonThe Scarlet Sisters by Myra MacPherson introduces us to two woman who were brazen enough to stand up for what they believed in. Women didn't have many choices in the late 19th century, but sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin were not easily subdued. Among their many claims to fame, singularly and together, were being the first women to open a brokerage firm, the first woman to run for president, and the first women to publish a right-wing weekly. They were, in fact, considered too radical and scandalous for the U.S. women's movement, so the sisters eventually moved to the UK, where they continued their fight for equality. Author MacPherson is no stranger to gender inequalities or to the repercussions of being a strong, smart, opinionated woman in a man's world. Well-researched and based on firsthand accounts and historical documents, The Scarlet Sisters is as easy to read as a novel but will have you proudly waving your feminist flag.

Living with a Wild God by Barbara EhrenreichI love the subtitle of Barbara Ehrenreich's Living with a Wild God: "A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything." How does a mature scientist turned objective journalist reconcile her view of the world with a long-repressed spiritual moment experienced by her teenage self? In this frank and thought-provoking memoir, Ehrenreich looks back on her family's difficulties, her lifelong search for the answers to the big questions (What does it all mean?), and her solid atheist beliefs, all colored by a singular mystical moment early on a California morning. Balancing her personal visions with her scientific background, Ehrenreich struggles to find explanations. Her insistence on entering the blurry space between the religious and secular spheres gives her coming-of-age journey an individual slant. In the end, readers will wonder where their own beliefs fall in Ehrenreich's world and whether the author found the peace she was seeking. I bet this would make a great book club selection.

The End of Always by Randi DavenportRandi Davenport's novel The End of Always explores tough issues, particularly domestic violence in a Midwest family at the turn of the last century. All young Marie Reehs wants is to escape the fate of her mother and grandmother and leave the fear, cruelty, and beatings behind her. Between the unwanted attentions of an older man and her sister's equally strong desire to maintain the status quo, Marie finds it difficult to sustain hope. When she meets the charming August, she is sure she has found her happy future at last. But like her foremothers, she may have misjudged the man and the brand of love he was able to give. Although fiction, The End of Always is based on the true-life story of the author's great-grandmother and the very real threat of violence women felt then and still feel today. The juxtaposition of the beautiful prose with the ugliness of Marie's situation makes this an engaging read. The fact that the events and people are, for the most part, true will make you cringe. Are women really any safer today than they were then?

What Is Visible by Kimberly ElkinsHave you ever heard of Laura Bridgman? She was once one of the most famous women in the world. What were her accomplishments? She caught scarlet fever at the age of two, which left her deaf and blind. Five years later, she enrolled in the Perkins Institute and became the first deaf, blind person to learn language--decades before Helen Keller entered the spotlight and history to create an enduring legacy. What Is Visible by Kimberly Elkins gives Bridgman her well-deserved due. The novel opens with a meeting between a very young Helen Keller and an elderly Bridgman. Keller wants to know everything about the older woman, who begins to tap out her tale. I am fascinated with Bridgman's journey to learn to communicate and the circumstances of her rise to fame. Thanks to Elkins's thorough research and deep empathy, the world will once again remember the woman who found a way to preserve her humanity and dignity by learning to spell her thoughts onto the palms of others.

Shadows in the Vineyard by Maximillian PotterTrue crime meets wine connoisseur in Maximillian Potter's Shadows in the Vineyard. Who knew that the wine industry could lead to poisoning, suicide, and a full-blown criminal investigation? When the proprietor of the Domaine de al Romanee-Conti vineyard, origin of the most expensive and most coveted wines in the world, received a note demanding that he pay €1 million or the vines would be destroyed, he regretfully failed to take immediate action. Sticking to the facts of the case, Potter weaves a tale that is as well-paced and gripping as any thriller novel. From the history of the famous wine to the details of the French detectives' operations and from the major players to the local traditions and culture, Potter draws us into the drama, building the tension up to and through the perpetrator's confession. The book started out as an article for Vanity Fair, but after interviews, tours, wine tastings, and newfound friendships, Potter knew there was much more to say. Wine lovers and teetotalers alike will love Shadows in the Vineyard.

Glass Jaw by Eric DezenhallEvery day the news is filled with some kind of scandal: from sports (the latest is the Ray Rice) to politics (most famously Nixon) to business (remember Enron). In Glass Jaw: A Manifesto for Defending Fragile Reputations in an Age of Instant Scandal, Eric Dezenhall talks about how events spin out of control and offers sage advice on what to do when you find yourself embroiled in controversy. You don't have to be among the rich and famous to benefit from his lessons: We can all use some tips on how to avoid stabbing ourselves in the foot, how to think before tweeting, and how to offer a sincere public apology. I'm particularly interested in how social media can be used (or maybe should not be used) to calm the waters, what makes a scandal, and what roles the entertainment industry and twenty-four-hour news channels play in augmenting every little mistake. Dezenhall uses familiar events, from many sectors to illustrate the do's and don'ts of surviving the media heat. The discussion is broken down into easy-to-digest, short sections, and each chapter ends with a succinct takeaway thought. Important reading for everyone who has an on-line presence.

I hope you have found at least a couple of books to add to your wish list. There is so much good reading here, you might want to consider marking your calendar so you never miss the monthly offering from Twelve.

To learn more about the Twelve imprint and to see the complete list of books they've published, visit their website. You can also follow them on Twitter, like their Facebook page, and check out their YouTube channel (be sure to watch the What Is Visible video).

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11 September 2014

In the Spotlight: Left Behind (Movie)

Left Behind (2014 movie)Are we living in the end times? Although this question is hardly new, television and the movies have recently taken up the theme of the rapture. One of the most exciting entries in this genre is Left Behind, a faithful adaptation of the best-selling book written by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. The movie is scheduled to open in theaters on October 3.

In case you aren't familiar with the premise, here is the studio's summary:

Left Behind follows Rayford Steele (Nicolas Cage) who is piloting a commercial airliner just hours after the Rapture when millions of people around the globe simply vanish. Thirty thousand feet over the Atlantic, Rayford is faced with a damaged plane, terrified passengers, and a desperate desire to get back to his family. On the ground, his daughter, Chloe Steele (Cassi Thomson) is among those left behind, forced to navigate a world of madness as she searches for her lost mother and brother. Shot mostly in and around Baton Rouge, LA., Left Behind was produced by Paul Lalonde and Michael Walker and co-written by Paul Lalonde and John Patus.
Whether you believe in the biblical prediction or not, the idea of the rapture is fascinating. What would the world be like if a large percentage of the population suddenly disappeared, leaving behind only their clothes and belongings? It's difficult to imagine the fear, chaos, and hysteria of the initial hours.

Left Behind (2014 movie)

The movie, directed by Vic Armstrong, promises to be as action packed as it is thought provoking. Oscar-winning actor Nicolas Cage takes the lead as a commercial pilot, who is in the air when the rapture occurs. Not only must he prevent the plane from crashing but he must also keep the remaining passengers and crew calm, all the while worrying about the fate of his family.

The action, however, is not limited to the confines of the plane. We witness the devastation on the ground and the panic of the people through the eyes of Cassi Thomson, who plays the pilot's daughter.

After seeing an advanced screening of the film, the novel's co-authors expressed their satisfaction with the adaptation of their work. All book to movie fans love to hear that the authors are happy, and according to an article at CP Entertainment, all is well on that front. In fact, the publicists and IMDb both quote LaHaye as saying that Left Behind "is the best movie I have ever seen on the rapture." Jenkins noted that it "does justice to the novel."

Besides Cage, the movie stars Lea Thompson, Cassi Thomson, Michael Murray, and Nicky Whelan. The official trailer gives you a sense of the heart-pounding drama and the basic story line.

To learn more about the movie, cast, and crew, visit the Left Behind website, where you can see behind-the-scenes photos and extra videos. Join the conversation and keep up on the movie news by liking the Left Behind Facebook page and following its Twitter feed (use hashtag #LeftBehindMovie). Finally, check out the movie's YouTube channel.

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by ThinkJam, but all thoughts are completely my own.

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2014. All rights reserved.


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