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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ten Quickie Reviews

I've been reading up a storm lately and wanted to write a quick post about a few (okay, ten) of my new favorite reads.  They are fun, interesting, and worthwhile books that I think you just might be interested in.  Here are my quickie reviews for:
about book: Dr. Robert Heller is one of New York City's leading veterinarians and his “Ask Dr. Bob” advice column is a must-read among pet lovers. More at home among animals than humans, Bob soon comes to realize that he, too, could use some advice. His father is angry and controlling, his mother is nearly invisible, and his brother seems bent on destroying not just his own life but also the lives of everyone around him. As for Bob’s wife, Anna, she is all but perfect, assuming one can ignore her own colorful but deeply dysfunctional clan. And then, just when Bob thinks he’s figured out what it takes to thrive in the human world as comfortably as he does among cats, dogs, and hamsters, tragedy strikes. How can he go on living when he is suddenly, soul-killingly alone?  Ask Bob is a funny and poignant story about what it means to put your life back together.

my thoughts:  Heartwarming read filled with a cast of unforgettable characters (human and animal) that explores the ever-changing dynamics within relationships. 

about book: Born in Moscow in 1963, Anya von Bremzen grew up singing odes to Lenin, black-marketeering Juicy Fruit gum at her school, and longing for a taste of the mythical West. Now a three-time James Beard Award-winning writer, Anya inhabits two worlds—one where four star meals are routine, and the other, the vanished Soviet empire of her childhood where even a simple banana was a once-a-year treat. In this wildly inventive, tragicomic memoir, she tells the story of three generations of her family and the foods—real and imagined—that sustained them. Here, you’ll encounter kotleti (a Soviet burger inspired by a politician’s visit West), kulebiaka (a mouth-wateringly complex fish pie), chanakhi (Stalin’s favorite Georgian stew), borscht, blini, and more. You’ll also meet some irresistible characters: Anya’s grandfather Naum, a charismatic intelligence chief under Stalin; Anya’s hard-drinking, dashing father, Sergei; and her beloved mother, Larisa, the romantic dreamer who taught her that food was connection, life, and the gateway to other worlds.

my thoughts:  A foodie memoir that mixes in Soviet history - makes for quite an engaging, informative, and delectable read.

about book:  In 1914, a twenty-one year old Iris makes the trans-continental journey from Australia to France with the hope of bringing home her fifteen-year-old enlisted brother. But in Paris, at the Gare du Nord, Iris runs into Miss Ivens, a powerfully charismatic woman who is starting a field hospital run entirely by women at the beautiful Royaumont Abbey, based on the real women's hospital at Royaumont during World War I.  Abandoning her plans, Iris follows Miss Ivens. But it's not until she meets the wordly and welcoming Violet Heron that she decides to stay – a decision that Iris will look back on with regret and wonder for the rest of her life.

Interwoven with Iris' tale is the story of her granddaughter, Grace. A determined doctor with a family of her own in 1970s Brisbane, Grace struggles to balance the frustrations of her male-dominated workplace with her love for her family, her concerns for Iris, and her denial in the face of her young son's failing health. 

my thoughts: Epic story about love, loss, family, gender inequalities, war, and so much more.  Its a spellbinding read about two strong women whose stories mirror one another in so many ways, despite the differences in time and place.  A definite must read!

about book:  A new short story collection Where is My Mask of an Honest Man? by Laura Del-Rivo, set in Notting Hill and featuring stark realism,  the surreal and Pinteresque, told in startling original sentences. Life in and around Portobello Road in all its diverse glory.

Stories range from the author’s comments on her debut novel, now seen through the prism of the author’s wickedly evolved style, to 78-year-old Joan Byker, a writer, who develops a severe crush on her 38-year-old landlord, Harry Brightling, a somewhat devious trader. Laura’s skill in describing people and her gift for writing dialogue makes this a collection full of breath-taking observations about life.

my thoughts: Short stories are my cup of tea, so I was a fan of Del-Rivo's book.  I loved the way she could pack so much in such a short amount of story - perfect for dipping in and out of.


about book:  BRAVE GENIUS is National Book Award finalist Sean B. Carroll’s never-before-told account of the intersection of two of the most insightful minds of the twentieth century, Albert Camus and Jacques Monod, and a dramatic story of how war, resistance, and courage can catalyze genius.

Drawing upon a wealth of previously unpublished and unknown material gathered over several years of research, BRAVE GENIUS tells the story of how each man endured the most terrible episode of the twentieth century and then blossomed into extraordinarily creative and engaged individuals. It is a story of the transformation of ordinary lives into exceptional lives by extraordinary events--of courage in the face of overwhelming adversity, the flowering of creative genius, deep friendship, and of profound concern for and insight into the human condition.

my thoughts: This book had me at Camus.  An impressive read about two highly intelligent and creative minds that were transformed by war and friendship.

about book:  O’Flynn is the bestselling and critically acclaimed author of What Was Lost, winner of the Costa First Novel Award and shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award, and The News Where You Are, shortlisted for a 2011 Edgar Award. Mr. Lynch’s Holiday contains the characteristic comedy and heartbreaking insight of O’Flynn’s first two novels, but it is her most mature work yet. In this novel, O’Flynn transports readers to a crumbling Spanish seaside community where a father and son try to find each other in the unlikeliest of places. The Telegraph called it “A rare love story between a father and a son” and the Financial Times said the book “excels in exploring the strangeness of being the outsider and the stories people tell themselves to survive.” 

my thoughts:  A novel about a father-son relationship that is broken, broken, broken and then slowly mended.  I found the book to be insightful, emotional, and a bit funny - perfect for a rainy day.

 about book:  House of Miracles is about love—the romantic love of days gone by, first love, unrequited love, and the fragile intimacies of a couple living in the last part of the twentieth century.

In these delightful, at times unsettling stories, we meet two very different women: baby boomer Janet MacDonald, who, despite a blossoming career in San Francisco, feels sure that she is cursed, and her elderly, eccentric neighbor, Mrs. von Meurs. When Janet’s relationship with boyfriend Jack, a struggling photographer, is tested, they drift dangerously apart. It is Mrs. von Meurs, alone and at the end of her life, who tries to keep them together.

At the heart of House of Miracles is the kaleidoscopic way the diverse characters are connected to Janet and Mrs. von Meurs. Secrets are revealed, and each woman must find her way, whether through a troubled past or into an uncertain future. Sometimes it seems that hope is not only “the thing with feathers,” but it is all they have. That, and the real possibility of miracles.

my thoughts:  Interesting read about two women connected by proximity and the ways in which their lives intersect.  Hope is their beacon and it shines bright in these stories.  Definitely a great book to settle down with!


about book:  In the winter of 1970, the iconic culinary figures James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones found themselves together in the South of France. They cooked and ate, talked and argued, about the future of food in America, the meaning of taste, and the limits of snobbery, shaping the way we eat today. The conversations among this group were chronicled by M.F.K. Fisher in her journals and letters—some of which were discovered by Luke Barr, her grand-nephew. PROVENCE, 1970, captures this seminal season—complete with gossip, drama, and contemporary relevance.

my thoughts:  A book about some of the world's culinary masters is a must-read.  Especially one that includes, Julia Child and James Beard!!  In this fascinating book, we get to eaves drop on conversations and learn all about the dramas that this amazing group of chefs endured during the winter of 1970 in Provence, France.  Foodies will LOVE this book!!!


about book:  Rachel Carson loved the ocean and wrote three books about its mysteries.  But it was her fourth book, Silent Spring, that this unassuming biologist transformed our relationship with the natural world.  Silent Spring was a chilling indictment of DDT and other pesticides that until then had been hailed as safe and wondrously effective.  It was Carson who sifted through all the evidence, documenting with alarming clarity the collateral damage to fish, birds, and other wildlife; revealing the effects of these new chemicals to be lasting, widespread, and lethal.  Silent Spring shocked the public and forced the government to take action, despite a withering attack on Carson from the chemicals industry.  It awakened the world to the heedless contamination of the environment and eventually led to the establishment of the EPA and to the banning of DDT.  By drawing frightening parallels between dangerous chemicals and the then-pervasive fallout from nuclear testing, Carson opened a fault line between the gentile ideal of conservation and the more urgent new concept of environmentalism.

Elegantly written and meticulously researched, On a Farther Shore reveals a shy yet passionate woman more at home in the natural world than the in the literary one that embraced her.  William Souder also writes sensitively of Carson's romantic friendship with Dorothy Freeman, and of Carson's death from cancer in 1964.  This extraordinary new biography captures the essence of one of the great reformers of the twentieth century.

my thoughts:  Terrific look at an amazing woman who pioneered the environmental movement with her diligent and determined research on pesticides and DDT.  We get to know Rachel Carson on a personal and professional level through Souder's fascinating and engaging biography, On a Farther Shore.  I loved this book - makes me want to read Silent Spring ASAP!!

about book:  Here’s a guide to baking delicious desserts with a colorful twist: sprinkles! Of course you can scatter them over cakes and pies—but you can also swirl them into waffles, “embroider” them on cookies, and freeze them in pretty popsicles. Jackie Alpers shares dozens of creative, colorful, super-fun recipes, plus quick-and-easy projects (ideal for little kids), holiday treats, party-perfect sprinkles crafts (great for gifting!).

my thoughts:  Fun recipe book filled with tons of fresh ideas on how to bedazzle your food with sprinkles.  Bright colored pictures included! I have to admit I had fun just flipping through the book and looking at all of the pictures of the amazing looking food - it made my mouth water.  Plus, it gave me great ideas for upcoming birthday and holiday desserts. 


There you have it folks, just a few of my recent reads.  Not too shabby, eh?  I guess I'm definitely not in a reading rut anymore.  And now, I'm off to resume reading The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle.  Happy Reading!!

4 comments:

Alex said...

"Ask Bob is a funny and poignant story about what it means to put your life back together." It's impressive how hard it can be... I think I might check it out :)

Lisa said...

What a great variety of books - you definitely are an eclectic reader!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Alex, definitely check it out and let me know what you think :)

Lisa, I've gotten more eclectic with my tastes since I started this blog. Its mainly due to bloggers like you and others that have introduced me to so many new authors and genres :)

Anonymous said...

Nadia, Thanks for the "quickie" review of House of Miracles. So glad you liked it! Best wishes, Ulrica Hume.