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BOOK REVIEW: The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Bearing Guide to Life by Kathy Patrick


Kathy Patrick’s love of books led her first to a job in a bookstore and then to every book lover’s dream job – a publisher’s representative. However, as independent bookstores began to face serious competition in the 1990s from the big box stores, Kathy saw her account base shrink as the independents started closing. But the loss of the individual accounts was nothing compared to the loss of her dream job when the publisher decided to eliminate her position.

After a short period spent hiding in her bed with books and boxes of chocolates, Kathy was talked into going back to her original career of beauty salon owner, only this time she was going to do it her way. Thus was born Beauty and the Book, the world’s only beauty salon/bookstore.

Shortly after the birth of her new venture, Kathy started her book club “The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas.” There are very few rules; every member must wear a tiara and read the book of the month. The book club soon exploded across America and women in 70 chapters nation-wide were wearing leopard print, tiaras and hot pink.

Now Kathy shares her down-to-earth, tiara-wearing wisdom with everyone in her book The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life. Written in a very conversational style, readers will soon feel like Kathy’s sitting in the chair next to them, drinking a glass of sweet tea, sharing book recommendations and chatting away like an old friend.

Each chapter shares anecdotes and inspiration from Kathy’s life, stories of family and friends, love, loss, and of course, her book recommendations. Part self-help, part inspirational, part memoir and above all about loving books, The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life will soon have you exploring your inner diva while you put on some leopard print, hunt for a tiara and run to the library for your next great read.

ISBN10: 0446695424
ISBN13: 9780446695428

Trade Paperback
352 Pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: January 2, 2008

Author Website:


BOOK REVIEW: Abode of Love: Growing Up in a Messianic Cult by Kate Barlow


Kate Barlow grew up knowing her family was “different” but was unclear about the details. In 1948, Kate, her mother and her two sisters moved into their grandmother’s home Agapemone (Greek for “abode of love”), after her parents separated. Twenty elderly ladies shared a house with their grandmother, and joined her in revering Barlow’s grandfather, who all referred to as “Dear Bèloved.”

Whenever Barlow asked questions about her grandfather, the house or the elderly ladies, she was met with evasion, until the day she found out the truth from a school friend who asked her “Did you know your grandfather said he was Jesus?” In one moment Barlow’s life was turned upside down as she discovered that her grandfather claimed to be the Messiah and that her grandparents were never legally wed. Not only was Agapemone the home where Barlow lived, it had been home to a notorious cult led by her grandfather, the Reverend Smyth-Pigott.

Spaxton, a quiet village in Somerset, was an unlikely home for an infamous cult. Established in 1846 by Reverend Henry Prince, Agapemone was a collection of houses and cottages, the manor house and a chapel called Eden, all surrounded by a high wall and guarded by dogs and the village constabulary. After the death of Reverend Prince, Barlow’s grandfather succeeded to the leadership and arranged for the construction of a magnificent temple in London.

Abode of Love: Growing Up in a Messianic Cult is the first book about Agapemone written by an insider. Barlow’s extensive research is evident in the details included about the cult’s history, as well as reminiscences of former members, culled from newspapers articles of the day and interviews conducted by Barlow and her sisters. Abode of Love reads like a work of fiction and, the blending of the cult’s history with personal memories, creates a work which is difficult to put down.

To modern readers, the story of Reverend Prince’s cult sound commonplace: sex scandals; accusations of brainwashing; dramatic rescues of members by their families; moral outrage from respectable society; and virulent attacks in the popular press. In the 19th century, the tales of Agapemone and Reverend Prince’s actions, led to public outcries of indecency and a court case brought against Reverend Prince. The taint lingered around the community long after the deaths of Reverend Prince (the first incarnation of Jesus) and Barlow’s grandfather, affecting the way Barlow and her sisters were raised.

Barlow and her sisters spent their educational years at boarding school, a decision her mother made in the hope that the girls would have a chance at a normal future, away from Agapemone. Abode of Love is Barlow’s struggle to come to terms with her family’s skeletons, dispel some of the mystery surrounding her grandparents, and close the door on a childhood unlike any other.

ISBN10: 0864924577
Publisher: Goose Lake Editions
Publication Date: September 2006


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BOOK REVIEW: Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure by Anne Innis Dagg


In 1956, Canadian Anne Innis Dagg set sail for Africa, pursuing her dream to study giraffe. One of the first zoologists to study African mammals in Africa, Dagg broke many stereotypes undertaking behavioural research – years before Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey began their better-known studies.

For Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure, Dagg has compiled her journals and letters home to create a moving story of woman’s pursuit of knowledge in a new field. As Dagg shares, women did not normally enter science programs at University, were still expected to wear skirts to school and did not have the opportunities to apply for field research like their male classmates. It is from these limitations that Dagg struck out into new territory, traveling alone when she was only twenty-three years old and finding a location in South Africa willing to host a female researcher.

Readers may be tempted, with 21st century viewpoints, to denigrate Dagg for her apparent naïveté in journeying to Africa with no knowledge of the political climate. However, it is precisely this unbiased naïveté that presents a compelling picture of the world Dagg entered. Assuredly, it is only a narrow window into a complex situation but an important one. With a scientist’s eye, Dagg chronicles every reaction, including her own biases, her idealized notions of Africans, and her utter bewilderment at the political mire she has encountered. This honest reporting allows readers to arrive at their own conclusions.

Dagg set out with enough money for approximately a year in Africa and a host who may have turned her away after discovering she was a woman. Her research included hours of footage on the animals grazing and male giraffe sparing, studies of the plants preferred by the giraffe in the dry and wet seasons and her groundbreaking discovery of homosexual behaviour among male giraffes.

Her daring nature coloured her pursuit of the giraffe, and in the end, she managed to study the animals in both Southern and Eastern Africa, leaving just as the Group Areas Act goes into effect and apartheid is implemented as we understand it today. Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure is as much a story about women’s roles in the world as it is about scientific research and personal growth.

ISBN10: 0889204632
ISBN13: 9780889204638

Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Publication Date: January 2006
Part of the Life Writing Series


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BOOK REVIEW: Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary by Alice Sparberg Alexiou


“Designing a dream city is easy, rebuilding a living one takes imagination.” Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs coined the phrase “sidewalk ballet” to describe the chaos she believed created livable cities. An advocate for increased density and diversity in urban settings, she believed that nothing is safer than a city street that everybody uses, one that is not too long, with a mixture of workplaces and residences where “the eyes on the street” provide a secure environment. In Jane Jacobs: Urban Visionary, Alice Sparberg Alexiou has created a lively portrait of one of the leading thinkers on cities and urban renewal.

Self-taught, Jacobs gained her ideas by questioning everything she observed and read. She spent long periods walking the streets of New York City, noting the bustle and rhythms of neighbourhoods and natural gathering points. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs’ seminal work, gathered these observations and shared her groundbreaking opinions on rebuilding cities. Fiercely opposed to the human toll caused by the bulldozing of America’s slums, Jacobs’ work challenged the establishment, as did many groundbreaking works of the Sixties.

Refusing to cooperate with Alexiou’s biography and asking her publisher not to facilitate the book, Jacobs claimed the biography distract from her writing. Alexiou displays obvious admiration for her subject; however, she is not blind to Jacobs’ shortcomings. One of the strongest criticisms of Death and Life was its failure to address the race question by analyzing communities where access to capital was impossible. Alexiou makes the case that Jacobs never did addressed race.

Jacob’s words and passion were the weapons that she marshaled in her battle, her razor-sharp language so at odds with her down-to-earth appearance. Opponents like Roger Starr, a former New York City housing administrator, found that her appearance was misleading; “What a dear, sweet character she isn’t.”

Right up until her death on April 25, 2006, at the age of 89, Jane Jacobs continued to work. Perhaps this tribute by New York Times best sums up her life and career: “Jacobs’s legacy can be seen in the New Urbanism, in the landmark-preservation movement and in the brain cells of architecture and city-planning students everywhere.”

Alexiou’s work is timely. The battles Jacobs fought are still with us; the exodus to the suburbs continues while New Urbanists argue the benefits of intensification and SUVs replace pedestrians in ever increasing numbers. Alexiou’s writing style helps the reader feel comfortable with Jacobs’ message, one needed now more than ever, before the “sidewalk ballet” is lost forever.

See the review posted at Armchair Interviews: Jane Jacobs

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BOOK REVIEW: Every Mother is a Daughter by Perri Klass & Sheila Solomon Klass


What is it that makes the bond between mother and daughter so different from any other relationship? Is it the shared experiences? Or is it as Perri Klass and Sheila Solomon Klass contend in their book Every Mother is a Daughter: the neverending quest for success, inner peace, and a really clean kitchen (recipes and knitting patterns included) that every mother is also a daughter?

Klass and Solomon Klass have collaborated to write this engaging exploration of their relationship and the extent to which each has mirrored the life of their own mother. Both are published authors with distinct voices that fit well in a collaborative effort. Klass, a pediatrician, has a column in Knitter’s Magazine as well as writing non-fiction and fiction books. Solomon Klass is a retired English professor who writes fiction for adults and children.

Every Mother is a Daughter explores the stereotypes of gender and roles, especially as they pertain to the all-important role of feeding a family. Solomon Klass, raised in New York during the depression by Orthodox Jewish parents whose marriage was full of bitterness and conflict, internalized many of her mother’s fanatical beliefs about women’s roles. Escaping the bleakness of her silent childhood home right after high school, Solomon Klass carried many of her mother’s admonishments into her own marriage: men were not allowed in the kitchen; dinner must contain a starch, a green vegetable, a protein, and a fruit; and women should get dressed immediately upon rising.

Klass, born in Trinidad but raised in New Jersey, gently teases her mother for her quirks while marveling at her bravery and independence. While Klass deviates from her mother’s frugality and insistance on home cooked meals (dinners are often eaten out), she has carried on her mother’s legacy in raising strong and independent children, while working full-time herself.

Reflecting on all stages of their lives, Klass and Solomon Klass create a memoir written in two voices, the most compelling being the section on “Becoming a Mother, Becoming a Grandmother.” Solomon Klass writes so meaningfully on sharing the birth experience with her daughter that the experience stays with the reader for days.

As Solomon Klass states “this whole book is really about lives so blended as to be inseparable.” Perhaps that is all anyone wants, a relationship with their Mother that is so positive that all their lives are blended, not just childhood. Every Mother is a Daughter is a loving testament to the powerful bond between mother and daughter.

See the review as it is posted at Armchair Interviews: Every Mother is a Daughter.

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