Tag Archives: book recommendation

Book Review: Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures 
by Emma Straub

When Elsa Emerson, the youngest of three sisters, is cast in one of her father’s plays at their family’s Cherry County Playhouse in Wisconsin, she is given her first taste of the limelight. This sets into motion her life’s trajectory — shooting like a rocket out of Wisconsin and into the warm allure of Hollywood. Here, she begins her transformation from small-town blonde to a sultry brunette named Laura Lamont — an Academy award-winning movie star.

What I loved most about this book was how authentic it felt. Elsa/Laura was largely fictitious (based loosely on this actress), her story an invention of Straub’s mind and careful historical research. However, having recently read a few memoirs of Hollywood starlets from this same era (Katharine Hepburn’s “Me: Stories of My Life” a couple years ago and Esther Williams “Million Dollar Mermaid” a couple months ago), I felt as though Miss Lamont could have been shooting on a sound stage just down the hall from either of these real-life ladies!

An interesting similarity I found in reading about Hepburn and Williams was the loss of a beloved sibling early in their lives. Both women experienced the death of a brother and in turn felt a heightened sense of responsibility and drive. Esther Williams explains in her book how her brother was the one who was supposed to “make it” in life and in Hollywood. After his death, she felt as though she was two people in one body — her brother Stanton and herself. Hepburn threw herself into her studies after losing her brother and even celebrated her brother’s birthday as her own.

Similarly, the eponymous Lamont loses the sister she deems to be the most talented and beautiful of the Emerson brood. I think this is a fascinating look at the sacrifice and loss that sometimes sits lurking behind a person’s fame and success. How many of Hollywood’s elite might point to a dark cloud they used to buoy themselves? How many have a tragedy that compelled them to succeed in place of, because of, or in spite of this missing piece?

The book also delves into intergenerational mental illness and suicidality as multiple branches sprouting from Laura’s family tree find themselves facing loss and depression. It’s no secret that mental illness, addiction, and all sorts of family problems (divorce, death, MONEY) have gone hand in hand with Hollywood since film started rolling. But looking at these issues over the course of an entire life, and within multiple generations of a family, is a more fitting lens for exploring the effects of our favorite tabloid fodder.

Who should read this book – Anyone interested in The Golden Age of Hollywood, film making during the studio system era, and intergenerational mental illness.

Add to your list if you loved – Any memoirs of Hollywood stars; like Me: Stories of My Life  by Katharine Hepburn and Million Dollar Mermaid by Esther Williams.

Other books by Emma Straub – Modern Lovers and Vacationers !

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mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week? We are making some serious progress on packing up the apartment as we prepare for our impending move to Alabama. Hoping that we can get far enough ahead that we’ll have time for a beach trip next week. Gotta soak in those ocean view’s while it is still in our “backyard,” ya know? We also gained a new little niece at the end of last week and are waiting on a nephew to make an appearance some time soon, too. Ahhh, so many sweet babies bein’ born! Hope all is well in your neck of the woods, and here are some thing’s to entertain ya…

Foods to boost your mood when you’re feeling low.

Ummm…is this shoe for real???

An oral history of a water-park in rural New Jersey.

A great way to start building up your wine collection.

Check out this 1950’s gas station that was converted into a home.

Why do books have dust jackets?

An American woman quits smiling.

In the midst of a national crisis, mothers addicted to drugs struggle to get off them — for their babies’ sake, and their own.

Leesa Cross-Smith’s debut novel sounds right up my alley.

Homeless Warrior’s fans live in the shadow of team’s headquarters.

The reasons why food tastes better in a bowl than on a plate.

A sweet little breakfast nook makeover on a budget.

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — My Three Favorite Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes and An Easter Adventure in the Bluegrass.

mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week? We recently found out that Chet got a NEW JOB! I am over the moon and proud of him, and he is so excited for this new opportunity. It does however mean we are moving…soon. Needless to say this is going to be a busy (and stressful) few weeks. But ultimately we are THRILLED about this new adventure. I’ll post more details in a future post! Until then, here’s some stuff from around the internet that I think you’ll love…

The best decorating advice from 25 people with cool apartments.

The first female cabdriver in NYC was also an actor and director.

Paula McLain tackles another Hemingway relationship and I could be more excited to read!

Ethiopia and Eritrea’s long history with lasagna.

I have a JANE gift card burning a whole in my pocket and I’m thinking of getting one of these book t-shirts. Which would you choose?

The one word to avoid when buying cheap rosé. (Honestly, this is my #1 tip when it comes to ANY cheap wine.)

A round-up of face masks that I’m dying to try.

LOVED this feature about 30 year-old mortician, Miranda! (We used to work together at Good Foods!!)

One of the Brothers Green shares his life-changing method to make fantastic food in minutes for every meal.

Did you know you share brain waves with your bestie?

Dedicated Pacific Northwest plant lovers nurture an indigenous food with ancient roots.

About the weary weaponizing of white women tears.

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Los Angeles Travel Journal and How to Spruce Up a Rental.

mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week? We’re going to make mint juleps this weekend in honor of Derby Day. (This Kentucky girls gotta represent!) I’m always super excited when May rolls around. Such a wonderful time of year! Hope you’re all having a great day and here are a few internet goodies I’ve found interesting these last few days…

A military base home infused with cheerful color.

For years he used fake identities to charm women out of thousands. Then his victims banded together to take him down.

I love the concept behind Jonathan Van Ness’ podcast!

How to help – and not help – a friend with loss.

Why men quit and women don’t.

Amid a fast food industry plagued by sexual harassment, this mother and daughter said “no more.”

Using categories to get organized on Instagram.

I went down a Wikipedia rabbit hole the other night to learn about Mennonites and came across a memoir to add to my list.

How to drink and snack like an Italian on vacation.

This blog is such an inspiration!

Made me laugh.

Finally, Enter HERE for multiple chances to win a rare Himalayan Salt Lamp from So Well!

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — The Secret to Finding Great Deals and Hand-Written Notes.

Book Review: The Binding Chair or, A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society by Kathryn Harrison

The Binding Chair or A Visit from the Foot Emancipation Society
by Kathryn Harrison

In this historical fiction novel, we meet our main character May-Li at the turn of the last century in China. Early on in the book she experiences the trauma of foot binding at the hands of her grandmother. From here, the book charts May’s path from abusive marriage to her escape to Shanghai. Although she must turn to prostitution as a means of income, her astonishing beauty, bound feet, and quick study of languages allow for speedy upward mobility. Ultimately landing her a husband from Australia.

May becomes a fixture in her husband’s Jewish family and forges a special bond with his niece Alice. The expertly researched novel covers the pair’s journey from Shanghai to a boarding school in England and back to China. Along the way, readers are introduced to other women who have all, much like May, experienced some sort of physical or mental defacement. While at times I felt like the book was trying to cover too many characters, too many stories that didn’t help move the narrative along; this cast of women did serve as a relatable reflection of May’s bound feet to a Western audience perhaps unable to conceptualize the rituals effects.

Even so, The Binding Chair felt broad, both in setting and emotion, in a way that I thought unnecessary and left the narrative feeling incomplete. However, in reading some reviews and articles about the book, others have argued that the enormity of what Harrison takes on in this novel speaks to feelings of diaspora. In a story charting the path of a Chinese woman in a family of Jews this reading would make sense. Conceptually I applaud it but stylistically I found it challenging. 

At the end of the day, while the story was cluttered and the fetishistic scenes regarding foot binding felt a little gratuitous, Harrison does afford readers an amazing investigation into a different world.

Who should read this book – Anyone interested in Shanghai at the turn of the last century and the Chinese ritual of footbinding.

Add to your list if you loved – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See or Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende.

Other books by Kathryn Harrison – The bestselling memoir The Kiss about her incestuous love affair with her father.

Book Review: Kitty Genovese by Kevin Cook

Kitty Genovese: The Murder, The Bystanders, The Crime That Changed America
by Kevin Cook

The story of the murder of Kitty Genovese is well-known by many. However, more urban legend than police blotter, the details of the story shift and change with each telling. Facts becoming murkier and then new research rising to the surface to make the waters of truth clear again.

Even folks for whom Kitty’s name was simply an answer on a Psych 101 exam can recount the basics of her demise: in the 60’s, a murderer stabbed a young woman in her 20’s over and over again as she walked home from a late night bar-shift. 38 bystanders watched from the windows of their Queens-New York apartments and did nothing to help her.

While Kevin Cook isn’t the first writer or scholar to sort through the details of Kitty’s case and posit that much of what we think we know, the story that exists within our public memory, is mostly contrived; Cook’s uncovering is so comprehensive that for me it completely changed what this murder meant in the context of life, and crime, in America.

Before reading this book I knew about the Kitty Genovese murder and the Bystander Effect. I didn’t expect it to unfold in the suspenseful manner I love when reading true-crime books. But Cook surprised me and managed to do just that. He peels back layer after layer of the crime we think we know, the assumptions we made about the urban human condition, and reveals new details at just the right moment.

The detail most often treated as fact in Genovese’s case is that 38 spectators were present while she died. Not acting, simply assuming that someone else would intervene. In fact, 38 came from the number of police interviews conducted at the scene of the crime. Not actual witnesses. Only a few folks heard Kitty’s screams and even less laid eyes on her in her final 20 minutes. The first-hand accounts of these few are revealed slowly within the book–the final encounter so heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure. (It makes the whole book worth it so I won’t ruin it by revealing any details here.)

A few days after the tragic incident occurred, Winston Moseley confessed to the crime. But Moseley and Genovese aren’t the only key players Cook explores. Metro Editor of The New York Times, A.M. Rosenthal had a big part to play. After a meeting with the NYC police commissioner, Rosenthal took the 38 witness story and ran with it. And other media outlets around the world followed suit. Suddenly the crime became a viral sensation, inspiring a host of psychological and sociological studies. However, the most meaningful implication to all the publicity, in my opinion? The arrival of a 911 call system. Something that didn’t exist the night Kitty cried out for help.

Whether he knew the story would or not, Rosenthal struck a chord with Americans who were scared. Scared about the changing landscape of urban living, scared by new politics and ideas and neighbors so close who looked so different, scared because the assassination of their president was still so fresh in their minds. But he got his facts wrong. And, as a result, we all did too.

This book showed me that Kitty’s story isn’t about indifference or inaction on the part of bystanders. Quite the opposite. This true-crime tale is about our vulnerability towards stories that speak to our own preconceived notions. What each reader of Cook’s book does with this new information, is up to them.

Who should read this book – Anyone interested in true-crime, sociology, urban psychology, or how news media outlets and public consciousness interact.

Add to your list if you loved – Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker (which I talked about HERE.)

Other books by Kevin Cook – Electric October, Driven, and Titanic Thompson.

mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week? I’m missing Louisiana already (we had an awesome time there last week!) and am still reeling over the book I finished on the plane ride home. Have you read it? Many of you mentioned on this post that you’d like to see me tackle more book posts on Finding Delight and I’m happy to oblige. I have a few reviews in the works and also an idea for an Introvert’s Book Club (would you like to hear more about that??). But while we’re on the subject, I’m happy to announce that the winner of the Spring Fling Giveaway is Katja of Katnapped.com. I’ll be in touch! Thanks to everyone for participating and keep an eye out for more giveaways round these parts. Ok, now that’s squared away, on to the links…

7 actions you can take to prevent gun violence.

Searching for memory of the Gulag’s in Putin’s Russia.

A brief history of presidential sex scandals.

Everyone knows clothes can be powerful communication tools, but can they help change the world?

What do you think of this color for spring?

How to make knotted hair ties. (Super cute & simple DIY!)

Has anyone followed The Artist’s Way program or read the book?

China cracks down on funeral strippers.

Pastel pink, bunny prints, and backpacks – OH MY! #EasterLewks

Faced with complaints of filth and blight, L.A. cracks down on overnight RV parking.

Elizabeth Catte on J.D. Vance, colonial logic, and the end of coal in the region that outsiders love to imagine but can’t seem to understand.

THE NOBLEST ART IS THAT OF MAKING OTHERS HAPPY.”

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — My Three Favorite Make-Ahead Breakfast Recipes and Books to Read if You’re in Search of a History Lesson.

Giveaway: Spring Fling!

Spring Fling Giveaway

Hello friends! I’d like to start hosting more GIVEAWAYS on the blog. Are you game? This kick-off giveaway celebrates the fact that Spring is right around the corner and includes items I think you’ll love. Honestly, sending fun mail-time surprises is second only to receiving fun mail-time surprises in my book. So, let the giveaways commence!

This giveaway is open to international participants but you must be 18 years or older to participate. 

What you’ll receive:

An apron … for baking Springtime treats. (Flirty Aprons)

Cabin Fever: The Sizzling Secrets of a Virgin Airlines Flight Attendant by Mandy Smith … for some in-flight reading material.

Frog stickers … for decorating pocket letters, planners, or happy mail (spring-themed, of course!).

Himalayan bath salts … for a spa-like experience in your very own bathroom. (So Well

Sweep lashes … to glam up your look for a night on the town.

+ a hand-written letter from me! 

 

Rules:

  1. You must follow Finding Delight in some capacity — either via WordPress, Bloglovin, or Facebook.
  2. Leave a comment down below sharing a. what you’re looking forward to this Spring, and b. what content you’d love to see more of on Finding Delight!!
  3. Make sure to include a way to contact you (link to your blog, email address, Twitter/IG handle) in the event you’re the winner.

The giveaway will remain open from time of publication until noon (est) on Mar 26, 2018, at which point I’ll randomly select a winner. 

Good luck! 

mid-week round-up

Happy Pi Day! I still have a tupperware full of cupcakes from the weekend or else I’d totally head to the bakery to pick up something befitting the day. Hope you enjoy the day, and here are some links if you fancy a browse…

Check out this awesome tee — “Never Underestimate the Power of a Woman.” For each one sold, part of the proceeds go to Kiva, the micro-lending organization.

Opinion: Turn prisons into colleges.

While searching for paper-craft inspiration on Youtube, I came across this video (and then this one) and it is SO SWEET!

Related: Serious question — Do you want to be a paper-craft swappin’ pen-pal??? Think: flip books, pocket letters, and flat package stationery goodies galore. Leave a comment below (with your email) if you’re interested and we’ll set something up!!

This Lisa Frank tarot deck will bring out your inner fifth-grade mystic.

A lovely dress for any upcoming Spring getaways.

From food trucks to wine, Sanrio’s most popular character is a foodie superstar.

Dorm living for professionals comes to San Francisco.

Do you love YA fiction? I’m a sucker for John Green.

Related: Book crush ❤  

How I get it done: Organizational guru Marie Kondo.

40 gender-neutral alternatives to saying “you guys.”

How do you tell someone their fly is down?

Sandal weather!

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Camp Counselor Vibes and On Believing and Being Believed.

mid-week round-up

What are you up to this week, darlings? While January seemed to drag on forever, February is already flying by. #ShortMonthProblems It will be Valentine’s Day before we know it! Are you planning anything special? I’m trying to do little Valentine’s-inspired things throughout the month to make each day feel special (with some Mardi Gras themed things, too!). Fresh flowers, photo projects, baking treats, and sending out cards have all found their way onto my February calendar. 🙂 Hope your week is extra sweet, and here are some links I scouted just for you…

12 months of self-care in a helpful month-to-month guide.

Related: 10 Ways to Take a Time Out and Practice Self Care

Here’s how Ed Sheeran made 2017’s biggest track.

Iranians asked #Where_Is_She? Suddenly, it seems she’s everywhere.

Jaclyn Friedman sparks a culture-wide rethink about sex, power and what we accept.

How to not die in America.

Wouldn’t it be a delight to grow up in this colorful Dutch farmhouse?

Anatomy of a wild & crazy Saturday night aka breakfast burritos for two.

Related: Breakfast for Dinner

DIY: Wool ball diffuser for the car.

Have you ever tried a yoga wheel? I’m obsessed with mine.

Related: How to Make Your Own Fitness Challenge

Who invented the microwave oven?

A real “very stable genius” doesn’t call himself one.

Packing for 10 days away at a meditation retreat in a Tom Bihn backpack.

Related: What’s in my Tom Bihn Synapse 19 + Side Effect

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — The 5-4-3-2-1 Packing Method and 5 Blogs I Love.