The Inky Whisk

a blog about books and more

Review: Year of No Clutter by Eve O. Schaub

Doorway open to cluttered roomWhen Eve Schaub sees an opportunity for improvement, she takes a year and works on the problem. That is what she did in her 2014 book “Year of No Sugar.”  Now she is tackling a “Year of No Clutter.” A monumental pile of clutter housed in what she affectionately calls “The Hell Room.”

I always thought I had a clutter problem, but I do not have a whole room dedicated to things I cannot let go. Who knows? Maybe if I had an extra room it would fill up the same way all empty countertops in my home magically attract piles of paper. Schaub treated this room – a large room by her description – how others treat the guest room closet or the space under the bed. Don’t know what to do with it? Throw it in, quickly close the door, and think of it no more!

Kitchen Library #2: Booklets and Bookmarks

open card catalog drawerBuying an old cookbook – one that has been used – usually means you are buying an altered book. Marginalia, mini-reviews (“good!” or “Do not make again” or “Dad’s favorite,”) and extra recipes scribbled on the endpapers, are common. It is easy to spot the well-loved recipes because those pages bear stains and splashes, along with penciled-in modified quantities and cooking times.

The best extras flutter from the pages when you shake a new-old cookbook. Recipe booklets, newspaper tear-outs, shopping lists, and recipe cards are frequent fellow travelers in an old well-loved cookbook sent on to the book sale.

I’m guilty of marking my place with the same kinds of ephemera. Someday I suppose someone will find the Guinness Pork Chop recipe I printed off a website in 1997 and stashed in a cookbook. (I really did find this in my “American Woman” cookbook while I was gathering items for this post. I remember searching my recipe box over and over years ago for that damn paper and finally giving up and copying it onto a card from the website.)

One of my favorite serendipitous finds is the Heinz Soup Cookery booklet. I have never made a thing out of it I just love the illustrations. Look how happy the cover chef is with all her soup cans! Dinner in a snap! This 45-page booklet is from around 1955. I know this because Michigan State University has a fantastic collection of these little company-sponsored recipe booklets. I was able to find a number of mine right on their site. It’s a fascinating collection and most of the full booklets are digitized.

Little Cookbooks: The Alan and Shirley Brocker Sliker Culinary Collection at MSU Libraries

This “Soup Cookery” book covers all aspects of meal planning from appetizer to salad to bread to dessert – for instance, the Coral Spice Cake made with – you guessed it – tomato soup. Do you prefer candy to cake? Spice drops can also be made with tomato soup.

Review: Celine by Peter Heller

Binoculars on green backgroundHeller’s newest introduces a very likable, elegant, private investigator in her later years. Blue-blooded Celine lives in a small apartment almost beneath the Brooklyn Bridge with husband #2, Pete. She is sixty-eight, she has emphysema, and her heart is broken. In the year since the Twin Towers fell her younger, then older sister passed away. She is just finding her way past the fiercest stages of grief.

Relaxing one morning (by working on a macabre sculpture involving taxidermy) Celine receives a phone call from a young woman. Gabriela is a fellow Sarah Lawrence alum wondering if the famous “Prada P.I.” still takes cases. Celine is a daughter of privilege and an outlier in her family, preferring to forge a less-conventional route through life. She takes cases she considers “lost causes” – no spying on cheating spouses for her.

Sunday Post #2

vintage letters

It was a long week of warm weather/cold weather/warm weather/cold weather. I don’t know if I should hibernate or spring clean.

Last week’s reviews on The Inky Whisk

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Plus “Kitchen Library,” which was about my very favorite, go-to, always reliable, had-it-since-my-first-apartment cookbook Fannie Merritt Farmer’s Boston Cooking School Cook Book.


Currently (or still!) reading

Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente (pub date: June 6, 2017)
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (pub date: April 25, 2017)
South and West by Joan Didion (pub date: March 7, 2017)
Plus my next book club read The Buried Giants by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Book Cover with Cartoon Dragon HandI have a new galley that I requested just for the cover. That’s right. The cover tickled me. I mean, look at this cover.

In fairness, while the cover caught my eye, the details drew me in. The publisher’s blurb calls it “the unholy child of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Harry Potter, and Sixteen Candles.” Say no more – I’m in.

“Gork” is a coming-of-age story and, despite appearances, is not billed as a YA novel.  Author Hudson has published in various prestigious literary journals, collected an impressive array of awards, and was named one of 20 Best Young American Novelists by Granta. I can’t wait to read this one – but I promised myself I would finish my current reads before starting another book. It’s a bad habit of mine.

Gork, The Teenage Dragon will be published by Knopf in July.

Coming next week:

As for book reviews, I’m caught up on galleys and reading well ahead. (That is a thing that almost NEVER happens.) So… we will see what I come up with, if anything!

Kitchen Library #2:
Don’t you love buying a vintage cookbook and finding little booklets, yellowed recipe cards, and newspaper tear-outs inside? I will share a few interesting bonus items I have I found over the years (hint: tomato soup cake, anyone?)

This is linked to:
the Sunday Post, a weekly meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and
It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Kitchen Library: The Boston Cooking School Cookbook

Even if you have shelves of cookbooks there is one that you reach for first. One that among the stacks of recipe cards, magazine pull-outs, and Pinterest boards is a stalwart you turn to for roasting times, béchamel, or icing. Mine is The Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Fannie Merritt Farmer.

My mother used an edition from the 1940s that was her mother’s. She loved it so much that when the family dog, who had good taste in cookbooks, chewed the cover (along with a few others – the cookbooks moved much higher on the shelf after that incident) my father had it restored. When I moved out she found me my own copy, a 1937 edition. I later added a second 1924 edition, found at an antique mall.

Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

book cover with thor's hammerA collection of the extant Norse myths, retold with Gaiman’s unique voice, “Norse Mythology” recounts the stories of the gods and goddesses of Asgard from creation to the end of all things – Ragnarok.

In an informative introduction Gaiman tells of youthful hours poring over library books filled with the exploits of Odin, Thor, Loki, and the rest of the  Norse pantheon, as well as the giants, serpents, and wolves that also populate the myths. These beings bicker, compete, play pranks on each other. They are funny, petty, and cavalierly cruel. They speak to ravens, own boats that can be folded and stored in a bag, shape-shift, and drink so much beer and mead.

Throughout Gaiman keeps a good balance of serious and silly with a stories-told-around-the-campfire tone. Chapters stand alone as simple short stories that beg to be read aloud. The themes, morals, and messages of “Norse Mythology” are familiar in the way of most myths and fables, but Gaiman’s assured, occasionally laugh-out-loud retelling makes this a must-read. Ideally on a cold night with lots of extra blankets.

An advance galley of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion.

Review: The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Book cover with rusty chainsIt has been a while since I read a book as visceral and harrowing as this one. Relatively short at just over 200 pages, “Natural Way” is a powerful feminist allegory that gets up to speed quickly and does not relent.

Yolanda wakes up in a strange place, feeling drugged, and wearing odd rough clothing – the homespun cloth of a homesteader. Soon she notices a second girl in the room with her, in the same strange costume and looking as bewildered and frightened as Yolanda feels. Her name is Verla. When a man comes in with no information and leads Yolanda off for “admissions” she is thrown into a yard of even more confused young women. They are on an abandoned sheep farm in the dusty remote outback of Australia. They are about to be punished.

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