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Book Review: Unaccustomed Earth May 7, 2014

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 10:29 pm
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Unaccustomed earth

An Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri. Each story is connected through a shared culture and the hardships of family. From the young families trying to find their identity within a new culture to the people just struggling to find out who they are within their families.

My thoughts:

Let me just say I am a very big fan of Jhumpa’s work. The Interpreter of Maladies is one of my all time favorite books. This book however, fell flat. Perhaps because it is another short story collection, it caused me to compare it with it’s predecessor or if it was just that there were a number of characters in these stories that I just flat out didn’t like.

There were several stories that I did like, such as the title short story “Unaccustomed Earth” about a father and daughter navigating their new roles in each others lives. Her writing is just as beautiful as it has been in previous works.

What I didn’t like. There were a number of characters that were just unrelatable and very unlikeable. Likewise there were stories that where the central conflicts felt forced or they just felt flat. Sometimes I just wanted to shake the book and yell “Why are you mad about this?”

Unfortunately the book felt much like a combination of stories that just weren’t good enough to make it into Interpreter of Maladies.

 

Book Review: I Shall Be Near To You: A Novel March 19, 2014

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 11:21 pm
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I shall be near to you

Rosetta’s husband/childhood sweetheart leaves her to join the Union side in the Civil War. Left alone and feeling alienated from those around her, she comes up with a plan to disguise herself as a man and join the army as well. This will accomplish two things 1. allow her to be closer to her husband and 2. with them both making money from the army they can afford to get the farm of their dreams. Rosetta joins the army and manages to get into the same regiment as her husband and some friends from their own town.

My thoughts:

I was expecting this to be a heavy romance but it turned out to be much more of a historical fiction piece than heavy romance. Erin Lindsay McCabe’s attention to historic detail is astounding. Though there was an actual Sara Rosetta Wakeman who dressed as a man who went to war in men’s clothing, there were many other women who did the same thing just to be with their family members (husbands. fathers, brothers etc). I have never really been a big Civil War history nerd but this has actually peaked my interest. (I’ve always been more of a Revolutionary War history girl)

As far as the story goes, I really enjoyed Rosetta. For a military wife I could relate to her 110%, it would have been more if I had actually served in the military alongside the husband. As I have stated, it’s not really a romance perse, it shows an actual devoted real marraige between a husband and wife. The supporting characters are strong interesting characters in their own right, giving us a glimpse of what life was like for the Union Soldier for the war.

I highly recommend this book to history buffs and military spouses alike.

 

 

 

Book Review: Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing February 18, 2014

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 9:17 pm
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Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is a an enchanting food memoir. The story of Anya and her family is a chronicle of events from the revolution right down to Anya sold sticks of Juicy Fruit gum that she bought at the black market. This is a story of the food and history of Russia as seen through the eyes of one family. Featuring her grandfather the soviet spy. Her mother’s feeble attempts at making the new fangled food Pizza, made with ketchup and mayonnaise, the only ingredients that she could get.  These are only a few of captivating characters written about in the book.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book. I picked it up to read because I was curious with Russian food given the location of the Olympics this year. I got so much more than I bargained for. I found it absolutely fascinating that when communism came in one of the first things they did was changed what and how the people ate. They went from having household kitchens to having apartments with communal kitchen.

I think the biggest testament to the book is Von Brezman’s description of Kulebiaka. She and her mother wanted it so bad that while on a trip to Paris they used their last bit of vacation money to get some, only to find that it just didn’t taste the same. It wasn’t until they found someone in the states that immigrated to the US as well that they found a Kulebiaka recipe close enough to what they were able to get at home. I HAD to get my hands on the pie. Of course there are no Russian restaurants near me so I had to make it myself. Thankfully, it came out alright. (See results here)

Overall I found this book to be entertaining, educational and incredibly endearing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves food, history and family dramas.

 

Book Review: The Last Chinese Chef January 14, 2014

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 10:31 pm
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The Last Chinese Chef

 

Just when Maggie Mcelroy started to gain some semblance of a life after the death of her husband when she receives a phone call from China that will cause old wounds to reopen and up end all that she knew about her deceased husband.

“It wasn’t so much that China was crueler than the West, only more honest.”

Sam is a half American, half Chinese chef trying to reclaim his grandfather’s legacy as chef to the Chinese emperor but he can’t acceptance he needs to get his restaurant up off the ground.

Maggie travels to China to clean up the mess her husband left behind. She also decides to take on the job of writing an article for her food magazine about Sam and his restaurant. In doing so she discovers a whole new world of cuisine and life.

 

My thoughts:

 

I loved this book a lot more than I expected to. It was a pick for my slow food book club, which is a testament to the importance of book clubs because they help me extend my taste in books.

In so many of the foodie lit books you have a story and then there is the food to accentuate it. However, in this book, food is central to the story.  Not just through Sam being a chef but also with his family and it’s connection to the food of that culture.  To say that cooking is in his blood is an understatement.

Food is not just a part of the family but a way for the characters to reach out to each other. Sam was able to reach out to Maggie through food to help her cope with the situation she faced.

You know how a certain dish of pasta will make you feel all warm and cozy or a bowl of chicken soup will be just enough to pull you out of a cold. The food that Maggie experienced in China did much of the same thing, I would say going so far as to bring her back to life.

My only problem: It’s for my slowfood book club. Which means I have to bring a potluck dish based on the book. I have no idea what I am going to make.

 

Book Review: Longbourn December 22, 2013

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 2:47 pm
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Longbourn

 

From Goodreads:

If Elizabeth Bennet had the washing of her own petticoats, Sarah often thought, she’d most likely be a sight more careful with them.
 
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.

Jo Baker dares to take us beyond the drawing rooms of Jane Austen’s classic—into the often overlooked domain of the stern housekeeper and the starry-eyed kitchen maid, into the gritty daily particulars faced by the lower classes in Regency England during the Napoleonic Wars—and, in doing so, creates a vivid, fascinating, fully realized world that is wholly her own.

 

My Take:

I really enjoyed the story of the lives of the servants as it occurred with the story of Pride and Prejudice. The characters were all a bit flawed and relatable. It felt very much like it was a story all of its own. Though I liked the parallel plot lines of the stories, I can’t say that I was too fond of my beloved Bennet characters being ever so slightly tarnished. Sure they are human but after all these years there are certain characters that I hold up to on a pedestal.  By the end of the book it felt like I met my childhood hero and they didn’t live up to my expectations.

However, the story of Sarah and her time as a servant in the Bennet household was very charming. It’s a nice change of pace to read more stories about the common people over the gentry.

 

Would I recommend this:

Yes, especially if you are a Downton Abbey fan or fans of Victorian era literature.

 

An Interview with Jessica Brockmole, Author of Letters from Skye November 25, 2013

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 12:39 pm
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letters from skye

 

I recently got to touch base with Letters from Skye Author Jessica Brockmole to talk about her book and her recent nomination as a Goodreads Choice Awards Best New Author.

So you’ve been nominated for a Goodreads Debut author of the year. How does that feel?

I’m thrilled! Regardless of the outcome, it’s an honor to be listed among so many really great debut authors.

The story itself feels more non fiction than fiction. How much research went into it? Was it based on any person or story in particular?

I did quite a bit of research, not only into the history of Skye, Edinburgh, and the two world wars, but also into the mythology of Skye and to the language used then. I read many letters from the eras, written both during wartime and during peace, to get a sense of the things people would write about and the language they would use to share those things. There are so many layers to the language found in a letter, speaking to time, location, status, relationship, and personal choice, that I took care to get it right.

Are their any stories  in particular that stood out for you?

Unsurprisingly, I love the stories of the steadfastness and the patient love throughout war. I read one of a couple who exchanged almost 6,000 letters over the course of WW2, while he (an army chaplain) was overseas. They kept every one to remember that time apart. What a treasure for their later generations!

I have to ask, is Skye a real place in Scotland and is it truly as magical as it sounds?

The Isle of Skye is a real place, an island in the Inner Hebrides, off the northwest coast of Scotland. The island isn’t very big, only about 50 miles, but has such a varied landscape. Mountains, flat green land, rocky coasts, rolling beaches, waterfalls, tiny burns, hidden pools. While we visited Skye, there always seemed to be a rainbow—something other visitors have also noticed. It’s difficult to visit Skye and not feel inspired. Such a poetically beautiful spot!

Give me 6 words to describe your book.

Adventure. Love. Poetry. Family. Nostalgia. Waiting.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Rathbones October 25, 2013

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 12:34 pm
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The Rathbones

 

From Goodreads:

Moses, the revered patriarch of the Rathbone family, possessed an otherworldly instinct for spotting the whale. But years of bad decisions by the heirs to his fortune have whittled his formerly robust family down to just one surviving member: a young girl, left to live in the broken-down ancestral mansion that at one time had glowed golden with the spoils of the hunt.

Mercy, fifteen years old, is the diminutive scion of the Rathbone clan. Her father, the last in the dynasty of New England whalers, has been lost at sea for seven years-ever since the last sperm whale was seen off the coast of Naiwayonk, Connecticut. Mercy’s memories of her father and of the time before he left grow dimmer each day, and she spends most of her time in the attic hideaway of her reclusive Uncle Mordecai, who teaches her the secrets of Greek history and navigation through his collection of moldering books. But when a strange, violent visitor turns up one night on the widow’s walk, Mercy and Mordecai are forced to flee the house and set sail on a journey that will bring them deep into the haunted history of the Rathbone family.

Inspired by The Odyssey and infused with beautifully detailed descriptions of the realities of coastal and ship life reminiscent of Moby Dick, Janice Clark’s magnificent debut is a spellbinding literary adventure

My take:

This is a hauntingly  gothic story about family, loss and finding one’s self.   The book reminded me of the movie “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.”  I could just see each chapter changing like sets on a stage.

Mercy is such a strong female lead that is well developed as a character. Likewise, each character is odd and creative. The mystery of the Rathbone family was definite page turner that got deeper and deeper.

The only issue I had with the book was the disturbing treatment of women in some parts. (and this is coming from an Outlander fan). After I read the book to try to find some historical basis however, my search couldn’t find any. For example, I couldn’t find anything about women being shanghai’d.