Book Review: Tanqueray by Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton

Happy Thursday! I thought last week went by fast, being that I started my new job a day into the week, giving me a 4-day week, but this week is supposed to be my first full week and it went by even faster than the last! It feels like I blink and it’s already almost Friday. Time is wild!

Today’s post is my review for Tanqueray by Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton!

Title: Tanqueray
Author: Stephanie Johnson & Brandon Stanton
Genre: Nonfiction > Memoir, Biography
Edition: Audiobook (Libby)
Length: 3 hours 17 minutes
Publishing: 12th July 2022

LINKS:
Amazon: [Link]
Goodreads: [Link]

1970s New York City: Go-go dancers, The Peppermint Lounge, gangsters, Billy’s Topless, and Stephanie Johnson…

In 2019, Humans of New York featured a photo of a woman in an outrageous fur coat and hat she made herself. She instantly captured the attention of millions. Her name is Stephanie Johnson, but she’s better known to HONY followers as “Tanqueray,” the indefatigable woman who was once one of the best-known burlesque dancers in New York City.

Brandon Stanton chronicled her life in the longest series he had yet posted on HONY, but, now, Stephanie Johnson—a woman as fabulous, unbowed, and irresistible as the city she lives in—tells all in Tanqueray, a book filled with never-before-told stories, personal photos from her own collection, and glimpses of New York City back in the day when the name “Tanqueray” was on everyone’s lips.

When I first read Stephanie’s story, it was via HONY’s Facebook page and, I’m sure like many others, I eagerly waited for Brandon’s next piece to the story as they typically get posted in a time interval rather than the entire story all at once. It was an amazing story that brought tears to my eyes and I knew, a short time later, that a book was coming out as well. I never actually got around to it, until this month when I’d simply happened upon it while scrolling through Libby, looking for my next read.

This was a great story, although I doubt “beautiful tale” and “wonderful story” is the right word, but, it evoked strong emotions in me and just as I loved the original posts, I loved this book as well. There was a little bit more in this book than what was in the posts and includes an extra (audiobook special) interview towards the end between Brandon and Stephanie, looking for updates from Stephanie and discussing the emotions that came during the process of this book.

The story by Stephanie was captivating and makes you keep reading on. Most of HONY’s stories will have you glued to your phone for updates on the next piece of the full story and this was no different. I’m so glad that Brandon had stopped to listen to Stephanie’s story, even though he didn’t have his equipment on him (and he even went back to grab it!). From this book and from Stephanie, we get to listen to her life as both as Stephanie and as Tanqueray and my was Tanqueray glamorous and unstoppable. She had a special resilience to her. It does have a little different feeling from normal memoirs and autobiographies, but it doesn’t take away from the story one bit. Her childhood and much of her life is incredibly drama filled, intense, and heartbreaking. Her memory and ability to recall all of this information from all the way back to her childhood and her dolls, praying to have a chance to escape her mother. She remembers her good friends, the warden that helped her during her time in jail, the times she spent with other people, the mobsters that helped her…Her ability to show us readers what NYC was like back in the 70s was remarkable and so crystal clear even after all these years.

This was a story that was engrossing and simply too short. It was fascinating though and a great read. I’m glad Stephanie was able to share this story and I’m so glad to come across it again.

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E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney

Hello, my lovely peeps🐥!
I skipped last Thursday’s review as I had a major appointment/meeting over in midtown and had spent the previous night (most of the week, actually) preparing for it. But hey, none of that this week, so here we are! Back again with a Thursday review and today, I’m featuring another Grand Central Publishing book, E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me: True Stories from America’s Greatest Unsung Heroes by James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney!

Book Title: E.R. Nurses: Walk My Rounds with Me: True Stories from America’s Greatest Unsung Heroes
Author: James Patterson, Matt Eversmann, and Chris Mooney
Length: 292 Pages
Publication Date: 6 Sept 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Edition: Paperback
Genres: Nonfiction, Medicine, Biography, Autobiography, Science, Short Stories

Goodreads: >LINK<
Amazon: >LINK<
Grand Central Publishing: >LINK<

Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.

They save our lives every day, and we’ve never heard their stories.  The life-or-death intensity of working on the front lines, from America’s greatest unsung heroes.

“The compassion, the work ethic, and the selflessness of nurses … are given the respect they deserve and captured beautifully here.”
–Sanjay Gupta, MD, neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent, CNN

“James Patterson’s account of the twilight world between life and death that nurses inhabit is one of the most moving things I have ever read.”
–Sebastian Junger, author of Freedom and The Perfect Storm 

Around the clock, across the country, these highly skilled and compassionate men and women sacrifice and struggle for us and our families. 

You have never heard their true stories. Not like this. From big-city and small-town hospitals. From behind the scenes. From the heart.  

This book will make you laugh, make you cry, make you understand. 

When we’re at our worst, E.R. nurses are at their best.

A tribute to those who fight on the front lines of the E.R., this was a lovely read that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s formatted in a way that reminds me of the old Chicken Soup for the Soul books where you have true short stories taken as snippets from the lives of ordinary people, aiming to inspire you in some way or show you life through someone else’s eyes for a burst of a moment. These snippets are very short and some are only a mere two pages long, while others are only a little more. I always feel like short stories, especially micro-stories, are too short for my taste, but not here. Each are pieces that are just enough. Here, in Walk My Rounds With Me, we are seeing through the eyes of E.R. Nurses.

This book is separated into four different sections: Day Shift, Night Shift, Flight Shift, and a Thank You section in the end. Instead of chapters separating the book up, the names of nurses are there instead. Every chapter starts off with a short introduction paragraph and background of a nurse following by a story/moments they recounted during their day, night, or flight shifts and how it’s always something they’ll remember or how it’s changed them since experiencing it.

Many of these stories are powerful pieces, and there are some stories that I didn’t expect at all. Nurses are heroes that often go unappreciated, and this book is a way for the authors to show a glimpse of the work they do to the world.

There are many very interesting moments and stories throughout this book. There are some that brings me to tears, in laughter and saddness. There are plenty of life lessons that lies in these pages that I know I will carry with me. Some of the moments that I will always remember: just how hard nurses advocate for their patients, breaking hospital policies to give their patients one final humane moment, how nurses must put on a strong face to deal with an angry person who “has been waiting for a long time” after coming right out of a room for a child that has just passed, how important it is to be allowed to express your emotions and sorrows, the countless miracles next to small incidents that could take away lives (a small bump to the head), and how there’s nothing that’s totally predictable.

I used to really enjoy the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and for all the short stories I’ve read recently, this one especially touched a nostalgic part of me. The stories are simple but profound, the writing is done well, and I’ve gained a great deal of respect for nurses of all sorts. They put so much work into getting nursing degrees and come out to deal with some of the most awful things and nasty people. They sit with us through some of the worst days of our lives. They bring small joys to us when it feels like there are none left. Truly a wonderful collection of admirable people and stories that I loved.

Book Review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

Lately, I’ve come across a lot of nostalgic moments leading me to read certain books. A while back, I’d once again, come across the documentary Being Mortal and eventually, I’d gone to read the book, after a friend had gifted it to me. Similarly, there was another video, a few months later, that randomly popped up again for Oscar, the cat that was always there for the residents of the Steere House nursing home during their last moments and suddenly, I’d found myself reading the book about him. This time, it was the opposite. I’d come across the book first, scrolling around Libby, and had a faint half second image of Bob on someone’s shoulder, flash by my head. A special cat. I knew I needed to read it.

Happy Thursday, my lovely peeps🐥. I hope you enjoy another review about a special little kitty.

Title: A Street Cat Named Bob
Author: James Bowen
Edition: Libby > Audiobook
Length: 6 hours 3 minutes
Genre/s: Nonfiction, Audiobook, Memoir, Biography, Animal > Cats, Contemporary
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.

Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other’s troubled pasts.

A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it.

James Bowen’s life isn’t the best. While his childhood wasn’t bad, he was constantly moving and so never felt settled; making friends like that was hard. Now thousands of miles away from home, London rather than back in Australia, he’s working hard in trying to kick his heroin addiction while barely making ends meet. James busks during the day to pay for his necessities. One day, he notices an injured street cat, a ginger tom, curled up in the halls of his sheltered accommodations. Having spent the last of his money for vet bills, James had thought to let this ginger stay with him, just for a little while; a temporary stay so that he had a nice and warm place to curl up while recovering from injuries. When it was time to let the cat back out to the streets, Bob runs off behind some bushes…and pees before coming back to James, his usual outdoors routine as if to say Well? I’m done peeing, let’s get back home now.

A large part of this book was about Bob. They always say, a cat chooses you, not the other way around and this seems to definitely be the case with Bob. One day, he’d follows James to his usual busking work, playing his music in the Covent Gardens. Nothing James does can shoo the cat back to his flat and so, relents, even allowing Bob to ride his shoulders when crossing dangerous places or needing to walk in a hurry, the only thing tethering the cat was a piece of old shoelace. But of course, a cat on someone’s shoulders attracts a lot of attention and immediately, strangers from all over would come over to try and talk to or about the ginger tom on Jame’s shoulders.

This was a wonderful book. Though the focus was on Bob and how he’d saved James in multiple ways, it was an eye-opening book about homelessness and joblessness as well as the hardships of climbing out of such life, support systems and why they’re important, as well as drug addiction and addiction recovery. There’s this feeling of being like a ghost when you’re an addict or homeless, busking in the streets for spare change. Especially in the hustle and bustle of big cities, people pass by you as if you’re a nobody and Bob’s presence and ability to attract strangers to come towards James and his cat really helped James feel real again. That part really made me said, especially when he remarked about how, for so long, he felt unseen and nonhuman and finally he was beginning to be human again.

A big part of his journey to getting clean and sober, away from his addiction, is getting into trouble for illegally busking. If being invisible to the world isn’t enough, try getting attacked by angry people for nearly no reason at all; people harassing you or your cat. It’s a terrible and terrifying way to live so, after a while, James knew that his busking days were at an end. Spare change wasn’t going to get him back on his feet, he needed to get clean and needed a better and more legal job; one where the local cops can’t just run you away. So much of his motivation for change had been for Bob, who’d grown to be like a child to him. It was all, “For Bob.” For Bob’s next meal, for Bob’s safety, for Bob’s future.

Through Bob and this book, you begin to learn a lot about homelessness and drug addictions. You understand why people can’t simply just “Get back on your feet and get a job! a REAL job!” just with the snap of your fingers. It’s harder than that and through Jame’s eyes, you get to, in 280 or so pages, live through his life and see and experience what he does. On some days, getting to that next hit of drugs was all that mattered and to do that, you might resort to things that would put you in trouble with the law. With a decency on drugs, maybe a string of small crimes trailing behind you, suddenly, you won’t be able to just “get a real job” because, as James says, nobody wants to get near you enough to give you a second chance.

But Bob, he’s a special cat and many animals are so much more forgiving and humans are. He loves and has a special bond with James, one that nothing can sever. He’s a cat and if he wanted to leave, he certainly could. But, time and time again, he returns to James, even if separated by running away in a moment’s fear or being shoo’d off to live the life most street cats live. Besides helping James attract more attention, and thus a few more pounds a day when busking, he also provided a reason for James to fight on forward.

All in all, this is a lovely book. You get a cute cat who forms an inseparable bond with his owner, is known across the world to be a ginger kitty who sits on his owner’s shoulders as he walks the streets of London, accompanying James everywhere from his daily busking to his new job. But, you also get a book that shows you a new perspective; one of homelessness and how people treat you like you’re invisible, and drug addictions, how horrible drug withdrawals feel during rehab, and the hardship of trying to turn your life back around once you start to commit yourself to getting clean. An educational and heart-warming read.

Book Review: The Cookie Cure by Susan & Laura Stachler

You know, I never really cared about ginger cookies because it’s been years since I’ve had them and I’ve mostly forgotten what they tasted like. Naturally, I assumed it would just taste like ginger…which I hate. Then around last winter, I came across Dunkin Donut’s Gingerbread Latte, loved it so much I had to go buy the actual cookies, and now I love gingerbread anything. Let me tell you. I was quite depresso when I realized Dunkin didn’t bring that drink back this winter season…

Book Description

Title: The Cookie Cure: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of Cookies and Cancer
Author: Susan Stachler & Laura Stachler
Edition: Audiobook (Libby/Library)
Length: 7 hours and 49 minutes
Genre/s: Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Medicine, Cooking, Family

Blurb (Goodreads)

A heartwarming memoir of a family that refused to give up

When twenty-two-year-old Susan Stachler was diagnosed with cancer, her mother, Laura, was struck by déjà vu: the same illness that took her sister’s life was threatening to take her daughter’s too. Heartbroken but steadfast, Laura pledged to help Susan through the worst of her treatments. When they discovered that Laura’s homemade ginger cookies soothed the side effects of Susan’s chemo, the mother-daughter duo soon found themselves opening Susansnaps and sharing their gourmet gingersnaps with the world.

Told with admirable grace and infinite hope, The Cookie Cure is about more than baked goods and cancer—it’s about fighting for your life and for your dreams.

Review

At 22, Susan Stachler was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, cancer. Immediately, her mother, Laura, thinks of her late sister Sue, Susan’s namesake, who had also suffered from Hodgkin’s Disease. She’s heartbroken knowing that she would have to, once again, watch someone she loved become so sick.

Laura had pledged to stand by Susan, and she did, becoming her daughter’s greatest pillar of support during her treatment. Through the chemo, radiation, and doctor visits, she was by Susan’s side. One day, she had whipped up a batch of gingersnap cookies, hearing that ginger was a stomach soother and hoped that it would help with Susan’s side effects from chemo. It did, and having shared these cookies with the other patients and staff at the hospital, Laura and Susan began to realize how powerful these little snacks could be.

This is a beautiful memoir written by the mother and daughter duo as they go through Susan’s battle with cancer and how they began their baking journey, sharing their gingersnap cookies with the world.

The Cookie Cure is written in two perspectives with Susan’s usually being the longer followed by Laura’s parts as letters to her sister, each starting off with, “Dear Sue.” The book starts off with a brief history of Laura and her sister, up to the day her sister passed away from the same illness that her daughter would later be diagnosed with. Most of the beginning revolved around Susan’s treatments, while the latter half were of their struggles in trying to evolve Laura’s home bakery business, having gone from cakes and other treats to ultimately focusing on their Susansnaps.

This was a wonderful and heartwarming memoir. There were plenty of challenges and tough times that Susan and Laura had to go through, both during treatment and during their days in trying to expand their Susansnap business; going from being based in their home’s garage to an official shop. They take some major steps, such as taking the leap in purchasing a booth spot at a market, trying their luck with seeing if they could sell to major companies, and even in accepting interviews. In addition to all of this, Laura’s husband, Susan’s father, Ken, was fighting his own battle with cancer; non-Hodgkin’s disease. Through all of their hardship, they persevere and continue to press on even when, at times, feeling like failure is right outside the door, but never giving up. The mother and daughter duo made each day count, whether it was a good or bad day.

A heartwarming, and at times, emotional and hard, read. I enjoyed this book, the journey of both Susan and Laura through treatment and their business days, all the positive messages about never giving up and the importance of taking one step at a time.

4 shiny shiny eggs!

Book Review: Twilight: Losing Sight, Gaining Insight by Henry Grunwald

Book Description

Title: Twilight: Losing Sight, Gaining Insight
Author: Henry Grunwald
Edition: Library (Libby/audiobook)
Length: 2 hours and 57 minutes
Genre/s: Health, Nonfiction, Memoir

Blurb (Goodreads)

In 1992, when Henry Grunwald missed a glass into which he was pouring water, he assumed that he needed new eyeglasses, not that the incident was a harbinger of darker times. But in fact Grunwald was entering the early stages of macular degeneration — a gradual loss of sight that affects almost 15 million Americans yet remains poorly understood and is, so far, incurable. Now, in Twilight, Grunwald chronicles his experience of disability: the clouding of his sight, and the daily struggle to overcome its physical and psychological implications; the discovery of what medicine can and cannot do to restore sight; his compulsion to understand how the eye works, its evolution, and its symbolic meaning in culture and art.

Grunwald gives us an autobiography of the eye — his visual awakening as a child and young man, and again as an older man who, facing the loss of sight, feels a growing wonder at the most ordinary acts of seeing. This is a story not merely about seeing but about living; not merely about losing sight but about gaining insight. It is a remarkable meditation.

Review

I had picked this book up, off the Libby app/local library’s selection of audiobooks, randomly out the blue; a three second glance at the title and blurb, and borrowed it. I realized that, for me, I concentrate better with nonfiction audiobooks than with fiction and it gives off a podcast kind of vibe.

This is a rather shorter book, a memoir written about a man facing vision loss, his journey through it, those that supported him, and how he copes. It opens up nicely:

In the primordial ocean, a tiny organism stirs. It is covered with a light-sensitive pigment, an eye-spot, that seeks the sun and turns the organism toward it. The act is not seeing, but the precursor of seeing. It is part of the fundamental impulse in all living things to reach for light, part of the indomitable will to see.

We come back to this fact at least once, later on in the book, and much of the writing is like this. Sometimes there’s facts and history followed by musing and applying that to the author, Henry Grunwald’s, current life. It’s a bit philosophical in sense and this means that occasionally, the book can be quite dry. In fact, a lot of the book is dry and sometimes drags a little bit.

Still, this book throws lots of fun information at you, such as the history of eye medicine, historical and famous people who have suffered eye disease, and how other’s cope with vision loss. in the past and now, in modern days. You learn about neat historical facts like: Napoleon’s European campaign and how almost half of the French troops contradicted serious and painful eye diseases, like fire and needles pushed into the balls of the eyes, and how it contributed to the campaign’s failure, resulting in a push for stronger eye research in Europe.

You get moments that leaves you thinking, pondering about your own thoughts and actions. There was a question in the book, what would you do if you had only a day left before blindness? Henry noted the two [main] types of actions one could take, that he was the latter of: Would you go to tour the world and see what you’ve never and may never see again or would you devour the small everyday details around you? How the clouds move at different speeds, the fluff of the squirrel moving in the wind, taking in the view of the flowers you pass by every morning, carving the shape of letters into your memory everytime you see a newspaper or book…

You don’t often think about things like “sight-bites” that impacts your life deeply, not until your vision begins to fail you at least: quick glance at a letter pile to see if it’s all junk or bills, eyeballing your cabinets for spices and medicine, guesstimating quantities in jars in seconds, eyes skirting magazine cover titles as you pass them in groceries and so on…

Much of this book was dry and at times, I found myself zoned out and I had to rewind back to listen again on parts I heard but didn’t listen to. There were moments where I wondered, “What is this chapter about again?” It’s a bit boring, but then you throw in some interesting facts like the Napoleon campaign at the end of the 18th century, things like pondering over “sight-bites”, thinking about how you take small things for granted, and questions to wonder about such as whether you would “see it all, or see the small things” one last time before blindness and it comes out to be a rather good book.

Walks with Sam – Book Review

Book Name: Walks with Sam: A Man, a Dog, and a Season of Awakening
Series: [Standalone] Book : N/A
Author: David W. Berner
Book Type: Ebook > Kindle (Netgalley)
Obtained: Netgalley > Read Now
Pages: 169 (Kindle)
Genre: Animals > Dogs, Non-fiction > Autobiography > Memoir
Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Disclaimer: An e-copy of this book was provided to me via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are of my own.

Goodreads Summary:

A man, his dog, and a long walk can lead to unexpected discoveries. In the tradition of many literary walkers, David W. Berner sets out on foot hoping to reexamine his life, look back and forward, and most importantly, through the help of his young dog, Sam, try to find harmony in new beginnings and the uncertainties of the present.

In a series of chapters, each dedicated to one walk during a summer of hiking, the author finds that it is his beloved pet that allows him to awaken to a new spirit of mindfulness, finding beauty, wonder, and comfort in the ordinary, and to see a life, a neighborhood, and even a country with brand new eyes.

Review:

Slow paced and an easy read, I found myself feeling “bored” but not really. Maybe the word I’m looking for is tranquil or meditative. A page turner in its own way, I quite enjoyed reading this book because of how different it is to my usual reads. I think with so much rushing around in life, we tend to forget about the smaller things. This is a nonfiction book about a man, his dog and their walks. A beautiful concoction that mixes the daily mundane task of walking the dog and rediscovering yourself, Walks with Sam sparked a warmth in me that left me craving adopting a dog of my own an attempt to slow down and just muse about the wonders of life. I don’t have a dog of my own, but I do commute to and from work via walking and both journeys I tend to power walk to the destination, on auto mode, with nothing in mind except for my day ahead and the day gone past.

For some of us, walking the dog (or commuting from point A to B), even with an abundance of time, may be a bullet point, a check box, a line off your daily to-do list. When your brain goes into auto mode, it’s no harder or different of a task than getting your coffee, climbing into your car, and heading to work. Walking the dog is part of [a dog owner’s] life. It’s not something we think about. The task just gets done.

Walks with Sam is written from the viewpoint of the author, David. Having turned 60 and taking a break from teaching, David begins to document his walks with Sam looking for new meanings in life along with the little older ones hidden by the fog of the hustle and bustle of youth and work. We rush to the coffee shop to find the long line there so you end up rushing to the train that [now] you’ve just missed, and then rushing 5 minutes late into work with half the coffee already consumed. Of course you’re not going to take a moment to smell the flowers. But when you’re 60, and taking a sabbatical from work, you had a lot of time to think about a lot of things.

The chapters in this book are broken down into walks around the block such as Walk 4 revolving around David’s interaction with a neighbor that he, at first, deemed as a little off or Walk 22 revolving around training Sam via the goodness of bacon (😩 🥓) or Walk 26 as David contemplates about the concept of Aloneness.

Filled with the muses of one man, inspired by his dog and the world around him (and books!), each chapter is full of thoughts or little philosophical moments. He started documenting these walks with the purpose of rediscovering himself, what he loved and held close to him, who he was before and who he is now. The entire tone and mood of the book is calm, quiet, and soothing and it’s definitely a book to reread every now and then when you’re looking for things to think about.

I absolutely adorned the book, author and his dog. Sam has the playful energy of any puppy turning into an adolescent. Exploration and discovery comes in all forms from the grass to that rustle up there in the tree. Trains are scary. People are exciting. Bacon is delicious. Catch me if you can. The conversations between David and Sam are endearing and adorable. He’s having whole conversations with Sam, with the assumption that hopefully Sam actually understands a good portion of it. There’s even a chapter/walk in there where David, himself, muses about how there are some owners, like his wife Leslie, that speak to their dogs with words that most dog owners say: phrases, discipline, and announcements and then there are those that speak of whole stories with their dogs.

There was a lovely moment in the book where David is pretty much talking and musing out loud to Sam who is just being a dog, taking in the environment and not really paying attention. I loved that scene the most because it reminds me of the times I have lived with dogs myself and sometimes it’s better to just have someone listening to you, even if they aren’t particularly paying attention or even understanding what you are saying. It’s nice to have someone just lay there (or walking) and listening to you ramble on and on and not judge you.

A lovely read with plenty of things to learn off of, this is a book that I could honestly reread again or at least flag certain walks to glimpse through on during bad days.