Category Archives: Culture

Fred Patten Reviews The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.


The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art

Authors:  Stephen D. Korshak and J. David Spurlock

Publisher:  Vanguard Productions

ISBN-10:  1-9343-3150-3

ISBN-13:  978-1-9343-3150-7


From about the 1910s through the 1940s, one of the main forms of popular entertainment was the pulp fiction magazines, so-called because they were printed on cheap pulp paper with gaudy, lurid covers.  There were adventure-fiction pulps, Western pulps, jungle-adventure pulps, historical-adventure pulps, science-fiction pulps, air-ace pulps, pirate-adventure pulps, detective pulps, horror pulps, women’s romance pulps, and many others.  There were artists who specialized in painting pulp magazine covers, such as J. Allen St. John for the Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

During the 1930s, one of the standout pulps on the newsstand was Weird Tales, “The Unique Magazine”.  Weird Tales specialized in publishing science-fiction and horror with a fantasy bent, such as the exploits of psychic detective Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn.  Most of Weird Tales’ stories are forgotten today, but the magazine was notable for publishing most of the stories of H. P. Lovecraft, the Conan stories of Robert E. Howard, and the early short stories of Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert Bloch (one of whose stories, “A Sorcerer Runs for Sheriff”, WT September 1941, pretty well sums up Weird Tales’ editorial policy).

But what made Weird Tales stand out among all the other pulps were its covers by Margaret Brundage.  From September 1932 through October 1938, almost every monthly issue of Weird Tales featured a Brundage pastel chalk painting of a scantily-clad or completely nude damsel in distress being menaced by slavering werewolves, sinister Oriental master criminals, or a cruelly gloating whip- or knout-wielding dominatrix.  Sometimes the nude damsel was offering love to a statue of a pagan god.  At a time when pulp covers often came under cries for censorship for lewdness, Brundage seemed to have an instinct for just how far she could go and keep within the borders of good taste.  I started collecting pulp magazines in the 1960s when they were long-gone except for the used-magazine shops, but fans of the pulps were still talking about the issues of Weird Tales with Margaret Brundage’s covers.  She is one of the few artists whose cover on a magazine alone could raise that magazine’s price.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art is an “everything you want to know” book about Brundage and her work.  What makes this a must-have for most connoisseurs of fantasy art is the life-sized (9” x 12”) reproductions in full color on glossy paper of all of her magazine covers.  Most pulp and s-f fans did not realize that she also painted covers for other magazines.  This book includes them, plus several of Brundage’s non-cover paintings, some from long after her magazine period.

But wait!  There’s more!  This book also includes two complete biographies of Brundage, including interviews given to fans who tracked her down in the 1960s shortly before her death.  There is a biography emphasizing her life and art (she was a high-school classmate of Walt Disney, and they remained on good albeit distant terms throughout their lives), and a biography emphasizing her participation and leadership in Chicago’s radical left-wing movement in the late 1920s, including her activism for the Industrial Workers of the World and other labor and bohemian movements, and her unsatisfactory marriage to labor activist “Slim” Brundage.  It was her determination to stay in Chicago that was responsible, after her husband’s desertion of her and their infant son, for her to look for commercial art work in that city.  Weird Tales was one of the few magazines whose editorial offices were in Chicago.  It was Weird Tales’ sale to a New York publisher in 1938 and the relocation of its editorial offices to NYC that was responsible for Brundage leaving WT.  The new publisher wanted a cover artist who lived in NYC, and Brundage refused to leave Chicago.

The Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art is a 164-page book containing 74 magazine cover reproductions in full-size of mint-condition copies, plus ten reproductions of cover paintings from the original art (without the cover lettering) – the only cover originals that still exist after eighty years, because pastel chalk art smears easily.  The book also includes a plethora of posters, photographs, business cards, handbills, and other ephemera from the 1920s I.W.W. and the Dill Pickle Club, a bohemian social group in which Brundage was a leader.

Buy where there is any interest in lavish art books, in popular art or fantasy magazine art of the 1930s, in Margaret Brundage in particular, or the radical left-wing social movement of the 1920s and 1930s.

This book is reviewed from the $24.95 trade paperback edition.  There are also a $39.95 hardcover edition with a different cover; and a $69.95 de luxe slipcased edition with a third cover and a 16-page art folio that is not included in the other editions.


Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia


Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia
Photographer: Jim Naughten
Introduction: Lutz Marten
Publisher: Merrell Publishers (February 19, 2013)
ISBN-10: 185894600X
ISBN-13: 978-1858946009

It’s always interesting to learn about cultures and people from far away lands. That’s one of the reasons I read so much and I am well used to being swept away in time or place, but not as stunningly as with Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Nambia. I must confess, the images were so stunning – bright colors against a pale sky and desert sand; that I just had to pore over them for hours before I read the introduction or any of the text. The most striking and what keep me gazing into the photographs, were the faces. Such strength and history in the expressions. It moved me profoundly and I found myself wanting to go to Namibia and meet these people. Continue reading

Fred Patten Reviews Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. The Stories – The Movies – The Art.


Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration. The Stories – The Movies – The Art.
Author: Scott Tracy Griffin. Introduction by Ron Ely.
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN-10: 1-7811-6169-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-7811-6169-2

Tarzan of the Apes, the first Tarzan novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was published in October 1912. Titan Books has won the authorization and full cooperation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. to publish this only official commemorative visual history of Tarzan.

This is an extremely imposing tome. It is a tall, thick 10.2 x 13.1 inches, weighing 5 pounds; 320 pages in full color (except for the numerous period photographs, which are in black & white). It is written by Scott Tracy Griffin, a leading expert and consultant on documentaries about Tarzan and Burroughs for almost twenty years. The introduction is by Ron Ely, who portrayed the ape man in 57 one-hour NBC TV episodes from 1966 to 1968.

Aside from short biographical chapters on Burroughs’ early years (pages 10-18) and his later years (pages 312-315), the book concentrates mostly on his 24 Tarzan novels and other books (pages 20-183), the Tarzan motion pictures (pages 224-265), Tarzan in other entertainment media (television and radio series, and the stage), and dramatizations for children. Shorter chapters of a few pages each cover Tarzana (from its origin as Burroughs’ large farm/ranch in the 1920s to its status as a residential suburb (population 26,000+) of Los Angeles today) and the ERB, Inc. office built in 1927 by Burroughs where he worked; Tarzan collectibles for children such as lunchboxes; authorized Tarzan books by other authors; foreign editions; authorized Tarzan fanzines and fan publications; and the major fan club, the Burroughs Bibliophiles, and its annual “Dum-Dum” conventions.

The meat of the book is in its coverage of Burroughs’ books and the Tarzan motion pictures. A Titan Books press release describes this as “…a visual treasure trove of classic comic strip, cover art, movie stills, and rare ephemera”. The movie stills are in the forty pages on the Tarzan movies; the rest is in the 160 pages devoted to the 24 Tarzan novels and Burroughs’ other books. This is a treasure trove of graphics. The coverage of each book includes (besides a detailed plot synopsis, a summary of its public response, and trivia related to it) a complete publication history, original dust jackets, magazine covers, newspaper comic strip and comic book adaptations, and ephemera related to it. Burroughs and his heirs were collectors, and these are not pictures of the used copies that often appear in books about decades-old popular literature. Each image is from a mint-condition copy, a publisher’s proof, or the original artwork. Each image including the comic book covers is identified as to its artist. In the sections on motion pictures (including the Disney 1999 animated version), TV series, the stage musical, fan publications, foreign editions, collectibles, etc., ERB and his corporate heirs also built up a huge collection of publicity stills and other graphics, that are featured here. Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration is current up to Jane, the Woman Who Loved Tarzan by Robin Maxwell (Tor Books), published on September 18, 2012.

The biographical sections on Edgar Rice Burroughs include what is probably the most complete collection of Burroughs’ personal photographs ever published. In addition to straightforward biographical data, there are many anecdotes of Burroughs’ sense of humor. The story of how his original pseudonym, “Normal Bean” (meaning a normal human), was changed by a typesetter into “Norman Bean”, is well-known, but this book documents many others. For example, Burroughs was often asked how “Tarzan” should be pronounced. His replies were seldom serious; one answer was that “the ‘o’ is silent, as in ‘mice’”.

This is an authorized history, so it does not mention the many unauthorized Tarzan novels, written mostly since the 1960s after the first Tarzan novels’ copyrights expired. The Tarzan name is still trademarked, and ERB, Inc. has suppressed those in the U.S. individually in a series of lawsuits. This is a minor omission since most of the unauthorized stories were dreadful. ERB, Inc. has carefully used its authority to make sure that the authorized novels, mostly by such professional science-fiction authors as Fritz Leiber, Philip Jose Farmer, and R. A. Salvatore, and British TV and comic book author Andy Briggs, have been of high quality.

There is no index, although the clear arrangement of the contents makes most information easy to find. While most of Burroughs’ non-Tarzan novels such as The Mad King and The Oakdale Affair are minor enough that this book will satisfy most readers’ search for information about them, readers will have to search for complete information about Burroughs’ other science-fiction tales – the John Carter of Mars novels, the Pellucidar novels, the Carson Napier of Venus novels, The Moon Maid and The Moon Men – elsewhere.

Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration will sate the most obsessed fans’ desire for information about Edgar Rice Burroughs the author; about his Tarzan books and their adaptations in motion pictures, comic strips, and comic books; and about Tarzan and his supporting characters – Jane, his son Korak, Cheetah, and Tantor the elephant. It is a bargain at the price.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Fred Patten Reviews The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch

The Great American Cereal Book: How Breakfast Got Its Crunch
Authors: Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis
Publisher: Abrams Image
ISBN-10:  0-8109-9799-1
ISBN-13:  978-0-8109-9799-8

If you can’t guess from the title, The Great American Cereal Book will tell you all that you want to know about American prepackaged breakfast cereals.  Marty Gitlin is a freelance author of books about popular and topical subjects (Los Angeles Lakers, Girls Play to Win Cheerleading, The Hudson Plane Landing about the emergency airplane landing on the Hudson River on January 15, 2009).  For this book he partnered with Topher Ellis, a specialty consultant on breakfast cereals, editor of the cereal trade journal Boxtop, and webmaster of Topher’s Breakfast Cereal Character Guide.

I can’t say that this 368-page history and guide will tell you “everything” about breakfast cereals, because of the frequency of “Unknown” in the data.  Gitlin and Ellis got free admittance into the corporate archives of General Mills, Kellogg’s, Nabisco, Nestlé, Post, the Quaker Oats Company, Ralston, and other manufacturers of prepackaged cereals, but all too often their records simply listed the names that cereals were marketed under, not the dates when they were introduced or were discontinued.

But except for this quibble, it’s all here.  There is some narrative in the 19th century history of cereals, and in the stories of marketing superstars such as Rice Krispies and Rice Krispies Treats, Wheaties, Breakfast of Champions, Cap’n Crunch, the Trix Rabbit, and a few others.  But mostly this is information in tabular form for hundreds of well-remembered and forgotten brands:  The name of the cereal, manufacturer, date introduced, date withdrawn from sale, contents, varieties, notable spokescharacters (mascots), slogans, and “Crunch On This” amusing or interesting factoids.  The book is heavily illustrated in full color with cereal boxes, pictures of mascots, old advertisements, and other memorabilia.

Some of the information:  the earliest prepackaged breakfast cereal was Dr. James Caleb Jackson’s Granula in 1863.  It required a necessary overnight soaking in milk to be soft enough to eat.  When John Henry Kellogg developed a ready-to-eat variant and used the same name, Jackson sued for copyright infringement, forcing Kellogg to change his cereal’s name to Granola, which is still on the market today.  Post Corn Toasties began in 1904 as Elijah’s Manna, in a box showing the Biblical prophet receiving the toasted corn flakes from Heaven.  Vehement protests from religious fundamentalists forced the pioneering C. W. Post to secularize and rename his cereal four years later.  Lucky Charms was the first cereal to contain “marbits”, tiny shaped marshmallows; today they are a common component of cereals.  Quaker Oats’ Quisp and Quake were two essentially identical cereals that were designed by Jay Ward (of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame) in 1965 to promote a humorous rivalry between their cartoon mascots on cereal boxes and in animated TV commercials.  Quisp was voiced by veteran animation voice actor Daws Butler, and Quake by actor William Conrad.  The campaign lasted until 1972, when Quake was discontinued and Quaker Oats proclaimed that Quisp had won.

In 1937 Post licensed the right to promote agent Melvin Purvis of the FBI in its Toasties.  Purvis’ photo-portrait appeared in ads for a Junior G-Man kit that children could send in for.  Five cereals are 100 years old or older; four are between 80 and 100 years; six are between 60 and 80 years; and eleven are more than 50 years old.  Contrariwise, older cereal brands such as Cheerios were intended for permanence, while starting in 1980 cereal manufacturers began working with toy manufacturers, movie and TV and game promoters to design new cereals (or at least their boxes) to appear on market shelves for only as long as the tie-in maintained its popularity.  Among these cereals have been Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pokémon, Breakfast With Barbie, Jurassic Park Crunch, Tiny Toon Adventures Corn, Oats & Rice Cereal, Buzz Blasts (starring Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story), C3-PO’s, Cabbage Patch Kids Corn and Wheat Cereal, Cinnamon Marshmallow Scooby-Doo, Cröonchy Stars (starring the Swedish Chef from Jim Henson’s Muppets), Disney’s Princess Fairytale Flakes, Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Mr. T, Pirates of the Caribbean, and many, many more.  Many cereal brands have been improbably named, such as Force Flakes (the first cereal to have a cartoon mascot, Sunny Jim, created by W. W. Denslow in 1901), Oatbake, Tryabita, Sir Grapefellow and Baron Von Redberry (two cartoon World War I aerial aces; General Mills’ answer to Quaker Oats’ Quisp and Quake), Sugaroos, Mr. Waffles, Kaboom, Prince of Thieves (at the time of the movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves), Nerds, Directoyu, and Wackies.  The book closes with a list of fictional cereals; imaginary cereal names that have become well-known through appearing in popular comic strips, TV cartoons, and movies.  (Yes, Saki’s Filboid Studge [1911; page 353] is acknowledged, although it’s not listed in the index.)

The Great American Cereal Book (which is packaged to look like a cereal box) is another labor of love that took years to research and compile by its obsessed authors, who doubtlessly enjoyed every minute of it.  It will be in demand from nostalgia and pop-culture fans, as well as those who are really interested in information about popular cereal brands or where the famous cereal mascots like Toucan Sam and Tony the Tiger came from.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Fred Patten Reviews The Great Showdowns

The Great Showdowns.

Foreword by Neil Patrick Harris.
Author:  Scott C.  [Scott Campbell]
Publisher:  Titan Books
ISBN-10:  1-7811-6277-8
ISBN-13:  978-1-7811-6277-4

Scott C. [Scott Campbell] has achieved a wide fandom for his quirky cartoons.  His paintings have been featured in galleries around the world.  His previous book, Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C., got such reviews as, “The best thing about Scott’s work is that it’s so damn cute, clever, and funny!”

The Great Showdowns is a hardbound collection of 134 watercolor “strangely good-natured confrontations between the greatest characters in film history,” to quote from Titan Books’ press release.  The series was first exhibited at Los Angeles’ Gallery 1988 during 2011.

To quote from the press release again, “With a foreword by Neil Patrick Harris (a fan who owns several originals from the series), The Great Showdowns collects the most memorable moments of melee, interpreted by Scott in his inimitable style, including Chief Brody vs. Jaws, Die Hard’s John McClane vs. broken glass, Ripley vs. the Alien Queen, and even Spinal Tap vs. an undersized model of Stonehenge.”

Since these are not identified, “The Great Showdowns” also makes for an excellent game of “Guess the Movie”.  You can get a sample of six showdowns on the cover of this book.  Some in the book are obvious – Gort the robot and Helen Benson (Patricia Neal) in The Day the Earth Stood Still; E.T. and a telephone in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; the Terminator and the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day; Gene Kelly in a raincoat and a lamppost in Singin’ in the Rain; a piglet and a flock of sheep in Babe; Death, a knight, and a chessboard in The Seventh Seal.  Others will be harder to guess.

Have fun.  And if you can’t have fun, you can at least enjoy looking at Scott C.’s watercolors.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Shannon Muir Reviews Planet Taco


Planet Taco – A Global History of Mexican Food

Author: Jeffrey M. Pilcher

Publisher: Oxford University Press

ISBN-10: 0199740062

ISBN-13: 978-0199740062



Planet Taco talks about how the taco grew from a small regional type of food into a diversified global cuisine. It breaks down how tacos started as the food of migrant workers, what factors spread it internationally, how it struggled to find a presence in the world of fine dining, and ultimately  developed a diverse identity with many cultures taking it and adopting the taco as its own with each bringing a unique twist. Though the book clearly shows its biases in favor of the Mexican history of the taco, and sympathizes with the modern day taco trucks when discussing the current day status of the food, it still provides many insights that the average person may not know and is packed with information in an interesting read that is far from dry.


Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via Netgalley, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Fred Patten Reviews Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See

Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See
Author: Françoise Mouly
Publisher: Abrams
ISBN-10: 1-4197-0209-2
ISBN-13: 978-14197-0209-9

In October 2000 Mouly wrote/edited “Covering The New Yorker: Cutting-Edge Covers from a Literary Institution”, a compendium of the best and most influential covers from 75 years of one of the oldest and most widely-read American magazines. Mouly is uniquely positioned to write such a book because she has been the Art Director, the person who has selected what The New Yorker’s cover will be for each issue since 1993.

Now Mouly has written/edited what may be considered its companion volume: “Blown Covers: New Yorker Covers You Were Never Meant to See”. In this book, Mouly describes the editorial process that goes on which results in the magazine covers that are chosen, and shows many of the sketches and finished paintings that are rejected.

For much of its history, The New Yorker had a policy of using decorative and non-topical covers. Mouly and her cadre of artists – Barry Blitt, husband Art Spiegelman, R. Crumb, Harry Bliss, Christoph Niemann, Istvan Banyai, Ian Falconer, and others – have expanded this policy to look for covers that are both decorative and topical without becoming blatant editorial cartoons.

Not all the more than 290 illustrations in this book are unused covers. Often the cover used is shown with several rejected variants. There have been times when the editorial staff has argued between several variants until the press deadline, when one of the variants is chosen just because there is no more time. When the Trade Center was destroyed on September 11, 2001, the initial reaction was to run a solid black cover in memoriam; Art Spiegelman proposed adding the silhouettes of the Twin Towers on it – a black on black image – that was both subtle and memorable.

There are many reasons that one cover is chosen and others are rejected. Sometimes a cover design is approved and painted, and then at the last minute some newsworthy event happens and a topical cover is called for instead, relegating a perfectly good design to the ranks of the unused covers. Sometimes a theme needs an illustration and three or four preliminary sketches are considered before one is chosen. Sometimes an artist has an inspiration that the editorial staff loves but which is judged too open to misinterpretation or too risqué. They are all here.

Blown Covers is broadly arranged by Race & Ethnicity; Sex; Religion; Politics; Celebrities; War & Disasters; and Is Nothing Taboo? Some of the topics included are electorial politics (the Monica Lewinsky affair, Obama vs. Clinton, Obama vs. McCain, Sarah Palin), homosexuality and gay marriage, the “Ground Zero” mosque, child molestation, the O. J. Simpson trial, prejudice against American Muslims, nuclear meltdown in Japan, and American obesity. In addition to The New Yorker’s own covers, sometimes the corresponding covers of other magazines such as Time or Newsweek are shown as examples of how others depicted the same issues. (The New Yorker has the harder job because its covers are always without captions; their point must be made clearly visually only.) There are biographies of thirty contemporary (1993 to the present) cover artists, and an index.

Whether you are interested in the last twenty years of cover art of one of America’s most influential magazines, or you read this for its behind-the-scenes look at how a modern major magazine selects its covers, Blown Covers is fascinating and primarily visual reading.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Luis Rodriguez’ Always Running and Three Other Titles Now Available as Ebooks from Open Road Integrated Media

“Vivid, raw . . . fierce, and fearless . . . Here’s truth no television set, burning night and day, could ever begin to offer.” —The New York Times

Today marks Open Road Integrated Media’s ebook publication of four titles by Luis J. Rodríguez, including his stunning memoir, Always Running.

Rodríguez joined his first gang at age eleven. As a teenager, he witnessed the rise of some of the most notorious cliques and sets in Southern California and immersed himself in a life of violence—one that revolved around drugs, gang wars, and police brutality. But unlike most of those around him, Rodríguez found a way out when art, writing, and political activism rescued him from the brink of self-destruction.

Always Running, first published in 1993 and released by Open Road Media with a new introduction, spares no detail in its vivid, brutally honest portrayal of street life and violence. It stands as a powerful and unforgettable testimonial of gang life, by one of the most acclaimed Chicano writers of his generation.

Three collections of poetry will join Always Running. The Concrete River depicts urban pain and immigrant alienation, but hums with a current of genuine beauty and the pulse of life. Trochemoche (Spanish for “helter-skelter”) conjures life in the barrio, whether in a slum in a Texas border town or in Los Angeles, the vast, hectic, California metropolis where Rodríguez grew up. My Nature Is Hunger, which gathers selected poems from 1989 to 2004, represents the best of Rodríguez’s lyrical work during his most prolific period as a poet, a time when he carefully documented the rarely heard voices of immigrants and the urban poor.

Extra content includes:

Behind-the-scenes author commentary at the Open Road Media Luis J. Rodríguez Author Page
An illustrated biography in each ebook, including never-before-seen photographs and documents from Rodríguez’s personal life and distinguished career

Available June 12, 2012, from, Apple iBookstore,, Google eBookstore/IndieBound, Kobo Books, Sony Reader Store, and OverDrive:

Always Running

The Concrete River


My Nature Is Hunger

Tweet/share this: “Always Running” by Luis J. Rodriguez now available from @OpenRoadMedia with 3 poetry collections:

Suggested hashtags: #LuisJRodriguez, #Chicano, #Poetry, #Memoir, #Trochemoche, #MyNatureIsHunger, #AlwaysRunning, #The Concrete River #Latino #Latinolit #LATISM #books #ebooks

Paris Revealed: The Secret Life of a City

Paris Revealed: The Secret Life of a City
Author:  Stephen Clarke
Publisher:  Open Road
Pub Date: March 20, 2012
ISBN: 9781453243572

Traveling to Paris?  Thinking of moving there?  Or, just a lover of travel?  Before you go, grab this wonderful little book and make sure it comes with.

Stephen Clarke writers with humor and great detail about the City of Lights, giving insights into the culture and people, not just guiding you through the city.  He wants you to understand Parisians and fall in love with the city.  His love for it shines through in PARIS REVEALED.

The sections are well-written with lots of information and interesting tidbits. The section on the Metro system alone is well worth the price of the book.  It is extremely detailed.  After reading it, I felt armed with a wealth of knowledge and empowered to venture into the Metro. All I need is a ticket!

I loved his writing on the food and cafes.  They were wonderfully detailed and made me long to visit.  One can almost taste his descriptions and feel the rhythm and life of this historical city.  The chapters are fun and easy to read and have a lot more information than most guidebooks.  You can either read it as a novel, all in one gulp, or dip into it in sections in no particular order. Either way, you’ll learn quite a bit about Paris and enjoy yourself immensely.  If his words make you decide to pack a bag and move to Paris, well Stephen Clarke has kindly included a section on renting an apartment.

About the book (from the publisher):

A guide to Paris for those who are mystified by the city, those who are in love with it, and those who feel a little of both.

Stephen Clarke may have adopted Paris as his home, but he still has an Englishman’s eye for the people, cafés, art, sidewalks, food, fashion, and romance that make Paris a one-of-a-kind city. This irreverent outsider-turned-insider guide shares local savoir faire, from how to separate the good restaurants from the bad to navigating the baffling Métro system. It also provides invaluable insights into the etiquette of public urination and the best ways to experience Parisian life without annoying the Parisians (a truly delicate art). Clarke’s witty and expert tour of the city leaves no boulevard unexplored-even those that might be better left alone.

Disclosure:  A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review via NetGalley, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission.

Suggested hashtags:  #amoxcallireviews #stephenclarke #paris #books #reviews #humor #travel #nonfiction

Pyongyang, North Korea: Architectural & Cultural Guide, Vol 1 & 2

Pyongyang, North Korea: Architectural & Cultural Guide, Vol 1 & 2

Publisher: DOM PUBLISHERS (March 15, 2012)
ISBN-10: 3869221879
ISBN-13: 978-3869221878


Visiting Korea?  Or, like me, an avid armchair traveler?  Maybe neither, but you might be a lover or architecture and color.  In any case, you need this wonderful little double volume in its handy slipcase.  Turn a page and fall in love.

I’d never heard of Pyongyang before.  Or, maybe I had, on the news or in an article and never really paid attention until I got these guides in the mail.  Now, it’s on my list of places I want to visit.

The guides are lovely with full color photos and handy colored tabs for easy referencing.  The pages are thick and glossy, tough enough for constant flipping back and forth and easy enough to fit into a suitcase.  They are organized as follows:

Volume 1

  • Urban Planning;
  • Residential buildings;
  • Culture venues;
  • Education and sport;
  • Hotels and department stores;
  • Transport infrastructure; and
  • Monuments.

Volume 2

  • Introduction;
  • Cabinet of Curiousities;
  • Korean Architecture;
  • Learning from Pyongyang;
  • On Architecture;
  • Urban Propaganda; and
  • Appendix.

I fell in love with the buildings.  Being a great fan of architecture, it was a pleasure seeing all the styles and there are some amazing buildings in Korea.  Buildings that really stood out for me were the Grand People’s Study house that has ten stories and fifteen reading rooms.  Yes, I gravitated straight to a book house.

Both volumes are incredibly comprehensive with a wealth of information and photos.  They include maps, historical photos, photos of buildings under construction, etc.  I found the section on urban propaganda particularly interesting as well as the section on Korean architecture.

My grandchildren and daughter-in-law were also fascinated by the guides and their interest led to a long evening poring over and then discussing Korea, politics, architecture and color theory.  They are definitely educational and spark discussion.  I think they are a great way to get kids talking about world events, as well as giving them an interest in art, architecture and travel. I foresee more spirited discussion and activity in future evenings with them.  Jasmine is already asking if she can take the set to her school to show her teacher.  Korea, most probably not anywhere near her radar, is now a source of great interest and is getting her to read more about it.  I love that.

These guides are also a great way to get both kids and adults interested in non-fiction.  The color and vibrancy of them make them fun to read and look at, making it a great way to get information without it being too dry, which is often the case with serious non-fiction.

The publisher was kind enough to provide lots of photos from the guides which I have included here as a photo gallery.

Disclosure: A free copy of this book was furnished by the publisher for review, but providing a copy did not guarantee a review. This information is provided per the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission. Thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer.