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Not Your Usual Hollywood Celebrity Bio
'Born with Teeth: A Memoir' by Kate Mulgrew
“Born with Teeth: A Memoir” by Kate Mulgrew
c.2015, Little, Brown $28.00 / $31.00 Canada 320 pages
Inside you lives the tenacity of a terrier.
Once you’ve got something, you never let go, whether it’s a coveted item or a new idea. You’re dogged in your determination, seizing things with a grip that doesn’t let up. It’s a personality trait that’s served you well, and in the new book
Born with Teeth by Kate Mulgrew, you’ll meet a kindred spirit.
Though in later years, she’d make a different kind of entrance, Kate Mulgrew came into this world with a set of choppers already in her mouth. That, and the fact that Mulgrew was the family’s first daughter, particularly delighted her mother.
There were, of course, more children to come; always another baby in the bassinette. The Irish-Catholic Mulgrew family was eccentric: Mulgrew’s father was a hard drinker; her mother preferred painting over caring for her children, who were raucous and tight-knit amongst themselves. There was never enough food in their Iowa home, and never enough attention paid to each child.
It was, then, a noteworthy day when Mulgrew’s mother attended Mulgrew’s fifth-grade poetry recital. When it was over, she said she thought Mulgrew could choose someday to be a “mediocre poet or a great actress.”
From that day on, Mulgrew threw herself into “all things dramatic,” applied for early graduation from high school, and set her sights on the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Deemed too young for London , she instead moved to New York , which was good for her: she completely embraced acting school, having quickly decided that University wasn’t for her and neither was unemployment. It didn’t take long for her to land two plum roles – one on stage and one on TV. Between acting gigs, she fell in love and, at twenty-one, discovered she was pregnant.
Says Mulgrew about her career: “I set myself on a course and didn’t look back.” But throughout her life, though men came and went, roles were won and ended, and she had two other children, there was always one question: where was the child she gave up for adoption?
Early in her story, author Kate Mulgrew admits pride at having written poetry. That lyric talent, though it takes a couple pages to settle into, very much shines in this fine memoir.
What’s most refreshing, I think, is that “Born with Teeth” is not your usual Hollywood celebrity bio. Mulgrew’s life is the focus in this book, not who she worked with and what she starred in. Oh, you’ll find some of that here, yes, but this memoir seemed to me to be more feisty than fan-fodder. That casualness and the offhanded way with which it’s told set the tone just right for me.
Though I have to admit that I liked the beginning and the end of this book more than its middle, I still couldn’t tear myself away from it. I think you’ll like it, too – especially if you’re a fan of Mulgrew’s many roles. If that’s you, then Born with Teeth is a book to sink your fangs into.
Everything You Thought You Knew About Weight is a Lie
Statistically speaking, just five percent of dieters keep the weight off
“Body of Truth” by Harriet Brown
c.2015, DaCapo LifeLong $25.99 / $32.50 Canada 274 pages
Your summer clothes don’t fit this year.
You’ll admit that you weren’t paying attention: too many holiday cookies, too little New Years’ resolving. The pounds crept up and you need to lose them before they multiply again. It’s for your health and well-being, right?
Or maybe not. In the new book Body of Truth by Harriet Brown, you’ll see that everything you thought you knew about weight may be a big fat lie.
Some twenty-five years ago on a “sticky summer evening,” Harriet Brown sat in a therapist’s chair, sobbing about her weight. Once, she’d been thin but “three pregnancies and a whole lot of living” later, she couldn’t take off the pounds.
She was absolutely stunned when the therapist asked if she could learn to be okay with the body she had. She “couldn’t even consider the possibility” that having a few extra pounds wasn’t such a bad thing.
Even the language we use for weight has changed in the past few years: what was once chubby or husky is now “obese” or “overweight,” words that carry a meaner stigma. Yes, as a society, we’ve gained weight but our eating habits and our sedentary lives are not solely to blame. There are, says Brown, several reasons for weight gain, one of which is that dieting is generally detrimental.
Statistically speaking, just five percent of dieters keep the weight off, long-term; the other 95 percent of calorie-counters usually gain back any weight lost, and then some. We understand that yo-yo dieting is unhealthy, but we may not know that some researchers believe there’s no increased risk of death due to extra weight. Even so, says Brown, physicians sometimes admit to having “weight bias,” and treat (or don’t treat) patients accordingly.
But our obsession with weight goes much deeper than just physical effects.
Negative social pressure can affect our mental health, which suffers when we loathe our bodies and indulge in “fat talk.” What’s worse is that our emphasis on weight adversely affects future generations: some pediatricians recommend that infants be put on diets and one study found three-year-old children who were “unhappy with their bodies.”
Says Brown, “Something is definitely wrong with this picture.”
Food for thought. No pun intended, but that’s what you’ll find in “Body of Truth.” You’ll also find a good amount of controversy.
For readers who struggle with their weight, there’s a certain Ahhhhh-feeling of freedom that comes with author Harriet Brown’s urging for acceptance. It’s hard not to see that our attitudes about being overweight have gone overboard, and it’s equally hard to argue with the experts and research she cites.
Definitely, this could cause weight-watching readers’ heads to spin – but Brown is quick to reassure the flummoxed: “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach…” when it comes to weight or loss thereof.
Overall, I really liked this book – in part, because it provides more balance in a world where new diets come out seemingly every day. If you’ve grown weary of that, then read Body of Truth. You may have nothing to lose.
The Future Really Isn’t In Your Hands
Book Review: 'Endangered' by C.J. Box
You have little-to-no control
Deny no more. You’ve finally come to accept it: the future really isn’t in your hands. You have no control over others, either, which is the hardest lesson to learn. And certainly, in the new book Endangered by C.J. Box, there’s no control over who becomes the victim of a crime.
Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett was used to carnage.
He’d seen plenty of blood from man and beast, but the illegal massacre of an entire lek of politically-loaded sage grouse really set him back on his heels. The slaughter had been senseless and near-complete but before he could collect his thoughts or evidence, Pickett received a call that made him forget about dead birds: a girl resembling his daughter, April, had been found in a roadside ditch, beaten half to death.
Immediately, Pickett had his suspicions: some months before, April had run away with rodeo star Dallas Cates, the cocky youngest son of two irritating edge-of-the-law lowlifes living nearby. Pickett was even more suspicious when Brenda and Eldon Cates showed up at the sheriff’s office, preemptively, to say that their boy was innocent.
Dallas, they claimed, had been badly hurt riding a bull. He couldn’t have harmed April and besides, April had broken up with Dallas. Pickett doubted all that was true but when April’s belongings were discovered in the possession of a local survivalist, he had to put his skepticism aside.
“Endangered” by C.J. Box
c.2015, Putnam $26.95 / $31.00 Canada 384 pages
But as April lay in a Billings hospital in a medically-induced coma, Pickett learned that she wasn’t the only VIP patient: his old friend, Nate Romanowski, falconer and sometime outlaw, was also hospitalized, having been shot by persons unknown. Pickett thought Nate had been set up; it appeared he’d been ambushed in the middle of nowhere. Now he, too, was unconscious. Nate’s girlfriend, Olivia Brannan, and his van were missing.
Pickett sensed that the Cates family was somehow involved – but how? Surely it was no coincidence that Pickett’s daughter and his closest friend were both hospitalized with life-threatening injuries. Could the clues from one massacre stop another?
No matter where you are in the world, when you’ve got a book by author C.J. Box in your hands, you’re in the West. That may be due to a mixture of characters, led by the wonderfully stoic, thoughtful Joe Pickett – or it may be due to the natural beauty of which Box so perfectly describes.
And in Endangered, he does a lot of that: Pickett is sent all over Wyoming and into Montana here, which gives Box plenty of room for literary roaming. Meanwhile back home in Saddlestring, we’re left to squirm with new Bad Guys that may be the baddest that Box ever offered.
I wish you could see my copy of this book. I read it hard because it was that good. And yes, this is the latest in a series but it can be read alone, so don’t be afraid to give it a try. Just be warned: once you start Endangered, your reading time may be out of control.
What Your Shoes Say About You
Book Review: Shoes: An Illustrated History
“Shoes: An Illustrated History” by Rebecca Shawcross
c.2014, Bloomsbury $40.00 / $50.00 Canada 256 pages
You couldn’t resist: last week, you bought a piece of art.
It’s not something you’ll ever hang on your wall. And though it might be tempting to put this art on show, a pedestal won’t be needed. No, you’ll display this art just below your ankles and, as you’ll see in Shoes: An Illustrated History by Rebecca Shawcross, you’ll be in good historical company.
While nobody knows who invented shoes, we know that they were worn on human feet at least 5,500 years ago. Shoes were simple then, made of animal hide and grasses which, said researchers wearing reproductions, were dry and cozy.
Very early shoes were often sandal-like and utilitarian, but footwear was also a sign of status for ancient Romans. That remained true throughout the Dark Ages and into medieval times, when shoemaking became a profession and extremely long, pointy-toed footwear was popular with the wealthy. Called “poulaines,” those shoes were nearly unwearable without a toe-to-waist cord to avoid tripping, frippery that working folk could ill-afford.
Disco-era super-high platform shoes had nothing on fifteenth-century chopines, which resembled small benches on which to walk. Henry VIII’s court loved the “footbag,” a shoe name that practically begs for revival. And during the Renaissance, even men wore fabulous shoes embellished with fist-sized roses.
Royalty, by the way, always left their footprint: though black was often a shoe color restricted to kings, Louis XIV laid claim to red as the color of royal footwear (Louboutin, anyone?). Charles II loved his buckles, and Louis XV’s mistress gave her name to heels. Madame Pompadour, incidentally, had nothing to do with naming winklepickers or brothel creepers.
As humans walked through history, we learned that shoes should be made for left and right feet and that sizing offers a better fit. Woven-grass cords gave way to shoestrings. Shoemakers added heels for both men and women in wood and metal, in heights both kittenish and “killer.” We’ve “concealed” shoes, tied them to cars and with superstitions, given them their own stores, and added bling and endorsements.
And in the end, we can still wear sandals, just like those of ancient fashionistas.
So how many pairs of shoes do you own? It’s the rare person who has just one or two, but even if you’ve reached Imelda Marcos status (which author Rebecca Shawcross calls “modest” at 1,250-3,000 pairs), you’ll want to take a giant step into this book.
That’s because “Shoes: An Illustrated History” isn’t just about those things we stuff on our tootsies; there’s Hollywood here, as well as biographies, pop culture, and plenty of history to dip your toes into. And while you’ll find a satisfying amount of narrative, what’s especially appealing are the dozens and dozens of full-color pictures of shoes, including bygone styles perfect for today’s runway, and footwear you’d likely boot to
I think anyone with more than ten pairs of shoes in the closet is missing something if this book isn’t laying next to the bed. For you, Shoes: An Illustrated History is a real kick.
Holes in Your Knowledge You Might Like to Fill
Book Review: 'ASAP Science'
“ASAP Science” by Mitchell Moffit & Greg Brown
c.2015, Scribner $22.99 / $27.50 Canada 256 pages
Hey, what do you know?
It’s a good question, and the answer is that you probably know a lot. You know enough to do your job, not run with scissors, find food, and keep out of trouble. You, in fact, know more than you think you know.
But then again, there are a few holes in your knowledge that you might like to fill. And in the new book ASAP Science by Mitchell Moffit & Greg Brown, you’ll use science to do it.
You hear rumors. On social media, at the club, from your friends, wrong information is passed around, taken as truth, and passed back. And if it still doesn’t sound right, it genuinely makes you wonder…
Which, for instance, really did come first: the chicken or the egg? It might seem like a no-brainer because everything comes from an egg, doesn’t it? The total answer has to do with semantics, genetics, and mutations, and it might surprise you.
Your grandma always told you not to go outside without a coat or you’ll catch a cold. No matter how many times you told her that a cold was a virus, she insisted. So would you believe that Granny might’ve been a little bit right?
Or, take shaving: once you start, you have to keep doing it because the hair grows back thicker and darker, right? Wrong! This book will tell you why, and it will also explain why men seem to be hairier than women.
Drop your food and call “Five Second Rule” – or not? High-tech studies (done with bologna and plain old flooring) show that it all depends on what you drop and where. Overall, what scientists say may change your mind in one second.
In this book, you’ll learn who feels pain more, men or women. You’ll see why you close your eyes when you sneeze (and it’s not to keep your eyeballs from falling out). You’ll learn whether you’re in danger of spontaneously combusting, why snot is good, whether a zombie apocalypse could really happen, how to heal heartbreak, and why the simple act of reading can help you lose weight.
And a cure for hiccups? It’s here, too, but you probably won’t like it…
Chicken or egg? Dance or sit it out? Beer before liquor or…? It’s those hard questions that make you lose sleep, so just stop tossing and turning. Instead, turn to “ASAP Science.”
By using colorful drawings and the mind-bending subjects they’re known for on their YouTube channel, authors Mitchell Moffit & Greg Brown solve the kind of niggling conundrums that plague every bar bet, idle thought, and embarrassing kids’ question known to humankind. They’re playful in doing that – but they’re not silly. No, Moffit and Brown prove (and disprove) rumors and “unexplained phenomena” through real scientific methods and authentic research. And that makes serious fun.
If you’ve ever wondered about the Big Questions but didn’t know where to ask, stop now and find this book. For grown-up kids, ASAP Science solves mysteries and you’ll like that, you know?
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