Shame: A Brief History by Peter N. Stearns

Shame, we have all felt it. However, the majority of people undermine how much it has shaped the world that we interact with everyday.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 182 pages.
Read from July 11, 2017 to July 20, 2017.

Shame, as an emotion, has a core meaning, in relating individuals to wider social groups and norms — real or imagined

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Shame, we have all felt it. However, the majority of people undermine how much it has shaped the world that we interact with everyday.  From our sexual behaviour, politics, self-worth, and even our upbringing.  What is shame and what makes it different from guilt? For many scholars, this has been a broad and difficult definition to tackle and an even harder topic to discuss in terms of history and its impact on modern society.  Peter N. Stearns attempts to address these grey areas with his new book which, is set to be published in September 2017.

Guilty people apologize and also take steps to avoid repetition. Shame, in contrast, is a more global emotion, which can emerge in response to the same kind of wrong act and violation of standards. It may develop earlier in life than guilt– guilt requires more cognitive sorting capacity– but above all it emphasizes self-abasement. It is the self that is at fault, not the commission of the act. This creates greater pain and intensity than guilt. A shamed person feels very bad indeed– but also makes it more difficult to escape.”

The novel opens with the widely debated matter of shame versus guilt and whether or not shame is a primal human emotion. In order to address the history of shame, the author breaks down the novel into four more additional chapters to address each stage in history and how shame is built and progresses through time.

The author draws from a wide-variety of knowledge and cultures to provide excellent examples of shame from across the globe.  The most impressionable chapter of the book was by far the last chapter which addressed shame in modern-day USA. The reason I felt this chapter was successful was that it was channelled and concise where as the previous chapters, while interesting and insightful, covered a globally large scope on shame.  As a result, I also felt that the author missed out on key topics of shame, specifically with women’s sexuality and minorities, both historically and for our present day. While it was mentioned and discussed to a point, surely a large portion of how shame is structured and how it has created our current social and cultural society was built and carried on the backs of shamed women and minorities? Perhaps it is too presumptuous for me to suggest that, however, this book would have benefited from discussing the effects of shame within one country or continent, rather than that of the whole world.

In the last chapter, the author also discusses how technology and social media has given rise to a revival of shame in the modern-day. I also appreciated the references and discussions that the author made in relation to other current researchers on shame, such as Brené Brown.

Overall, this novel is an intriguing look into how shame has shaped our world over the years and how it is currently effecting our everyday lives. The majority of this book is historical in nature but there are also some good sociological and psychological insights as well. I would recommend this book for those looking for an academic read on a topic that is worthy of more exploration.

A big thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Vegan Cookbook by Adele McConnell

“A diet based on plant foods is not one of restriction or denial.”

3/5 stars.
ebook, 150 pages.
Read from July 11, 2017 to July 18, 2017.

Vegan food gets a bad rap. I mean most people physically cringe when they think of only eating vegan food or even participating in a conversation with a vegan about food in general. Animal ethics aside, a vegan diet is one of the healthiest diets to partake in if it is done correctly. Now, I know what you’re thinking, the minute you hear healthy you associate it with tasteless, restrictive, soul-killing, boring food. It is books by Adele McConnell that are changing that perspective.

You will find that there is a wide range of healthy and incredibly tasty food that will make you feel nourished and satisfied after your meals.”

Adele McConnell offers a variety of tasty, colourful, easy, and dynamic recipes that will appease the whole family. The best part is that Adele focuses on real food and tries to avoid all the over-processed vegan alternatives like soy and TVP (texturised vegetable protein). She provides a few easy dairy-free cheeses that you can easily make at home as well as few side dishes that you can pair with variety of meals.

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From Indian cuisine to Asian and Mexican, there is something in this book for everyone. My personal favourite recipes are: Udon Noodle Bowl, Curried Cabbage with PotatoesMushroom & Pea Coconut Korma, Khao-Soi – Thai Curry Noodles. 

The format of this book is beautiful. Even with my old, black and white Sony eReader I can see that the care that went in to the format of this book. The pictures are beautiful and the pages are in an easy to read format. My one complaint is that I wanted more photos! What is also very helpful is that the author marks each recipe with logos indicating if the recipe is soy-free, gluten-free, seed-free, nut-free, raw or sugar-free.

fun-prank-to-play-oniapassed-out-vegan-memes-12972091I was also hoping for a few more main dish recipes. There are tonnes of books on vegan desserts and I would have rather have had the main dish section doubled and the dessert section left to 2 or 3 recipes. I’d like to think that most people spend more time eating main dishes than dessert. Right?

This book is a solid convincing base for anyone wanting to give veganism a try or even just for those who are looking to reduce their meat intake and eat healthier.

A big thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

This debut novel explores the story of the family leading up to the murders and the idea of whether or not Lizzie did indeed commit the murders.

He was still bleeding.” I yelled, “Someone’s killed Father.”

4/5 stars.
324 pages, ebook.
Read from April 7, 2017 to April 8, 2017.

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC and for fueling my crime and murder intrigue!  I would like to point out that I technically finished this book in one sitting whilst on a 14-hour flight that crossed over between two different days. Yeah, high-fives for me!

Everyone knows the story, or at least the song: “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.” On August 4, 1892 in Fall River Massachusetts, Lizzie Borden was charged with murdering her father and step-mother with an axe. Lizzie was later acquitted of the murder, despite the majority of people believing she was guilty, because basically it was thought that women could not be capable of committing such a brutal act. Narrated from many perspectives, this debut novel explores the story of the family leading up to the murders and the idea of whether or not Lizzie did indeed commit the murders.

Toying with the idea that Lizzie was spoiled and functioning at a child-like capacity (it was easy to forget that she is actually a grown woman), the novel reflects on how her sister Emma has been trying to escape the family home and getaway from Lizzie since the passing of their mother. Their overbearing father, Andrew, always favoured Lizzie and did little to spare Emma any responsibilities after the passing of their mother, even though he has since married a plump woman named Abby.  The home was tense and unhappy. Even the maid, Bridget, is saving every spare coin she had to getaway from the argumentative and strange family.  However trouble is brewing on the horizon and someone has it in for Andrew Borden. With an intense climax and twisted ending, this book will not fail inquisitive minds.

Schmidt is the queen of acute and sensory descriptions. There are few books that can describe blood and vomit in such an uncanny way.  If you are at all squeamish, this book may be a bit unsettling for you but don’t let that stop you. I promise it is worth it. The book is intensely visual and the author has an immense talent in bringing her words alive.  The characters, especially Lizzie, are curious, disruptive, complicated and disturbing and the plot adds a new twist to an old story.

I expect to see a lot from this author in the future as this novel is a killer debut! Ha, see what I did there? Bad joke… yeah. Anyway! If you are at all interested in true-crime, historical-fiction, murder, or just curious characters with great visuals then add this book to your to-read list ASAP and pick up a copy this summer when it comes out in August.