Food connects us to our cultural and personal histories. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking is the history of a mother and daughter who emigrated to Philidelphia from Russia. Their memories of their home are tied to food and the food is tied to their homeland’s brutal history.
Anya intertwines her personal, family and homeland’s history with memories of food or lack of food. The chapters are separated by decade and the food that represents the time period. There is Kulebiaka, a layered crepe and fish dish often mentioned in Russian literature and associated with the czars. Kotleti started as a American style hamburger, but the bun got lost along the way. The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food was created to illustrate the abundance of food to a country that was going hungry. The sections on the World Wars and Stalin’s rule are brutal and a time of starvation. Twenty-seven million Russians died in WWII; 1 million starved to death during the seige of Leningrad.
I really enjoyed this Russian history food memoir. I kept going to Wikipedia for more information on Soviet leaders and pre WWI and WWII maps. I found an electronic of the Soviet manual on how to eat, The Book of Tasty and Healthy Food.
I’m going to have a Russian themed dinner party to try Anya’s recipes for Chanakh, a lamb stew that might have been Stalin’s favorite meal, cornbread, Salat Oliver, often seen on menus as Russian Salad, and Borshch.
Interesting look and explanation of the changes to the Goodreads review policies and the reviewers that had reviews deleted. We are in the Wild West days of social media. I wonder where we’ll be in 10, 20 and 30 years from now. What future clashes are coming as users build content on social media platforms that want to make a profit? How long will the current Facebooks, Twitters, Instagrams, Tumblrs,Pinterests and Goodreads last and what will take their place?
After my experience with Marisha Pessl’s first book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, I was not going to bother reading her newest offering, Night Film. Then I started reading the buzz about this book on the internet and from trusted sources for book recommendations. After watching the trailer for the book, I got in the queue for a copy from the library.
The story line is a bit of mash up of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo male lead, Stephen King weirdness and cult fan following and Stanley Kubrick veiled meaning film direction. The daughter of creepy film maker Cordova is found dead from an apparent suicide. Disgraced investigative reporter Scott McGrath is hot on case as he is positive that it was Cordova that set him up and ruined his life.
The book captured my attention from the start the way it showed materials such as articles, Facebook feeds and message boards in the same manner McGrath saw them. It was nice to see the real thing rather than have it described it to me. This approach helped ease my apprehensions. Reading it over the Halloween season helped keep me slogging along through the 600 pages. I enjoyed the book. I thought it was incredibly well written and I was very impressed with evidence Pessl created, the blind allies she leads the reader down and the dualities she explores. There were parts where I started to become frustrated with the farfetched story and/or characters, but I decided I was in the mood for a good Halloween type tale, so I continued.
As I came closer to the end of the book, my apprehensions came flooding back. My previous frustration with Pessl had to do with the ending of Calamity. I felt she had completely disrespected the reader’s commitment to a very long book with a detailed storyline. I will say she provided a Stephen King like ending to this book; which is better than no ending.
Sometimes a girl needs something funny; something that is not hard or full of mayhem. I listened to this book over a fall break road trip. Mindy Kaling reads the book. I highly recommend if you feel the need for some fun. Defiantly a chick book.
Unintentionally this year, I have stumbled into a reading theme focused on the unreliable narrator, specifically as it concerns the internal dialogue people use to convince themselves and other of what is and is not true. The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell falls into this theme, but ads a unique twist that separates it from other books such as The Burgess Boys, The Dinner, The Silent Wife and The Woman Upstairs.
In the age of prohibition and speakeasies, Rose is a typist for the police department recording police interviews and criminal confessions. An orphan raised by nuns, she is rather stodgy and does not care for the modern woman with bobbed hair and fancy clothes. All of this changes when Odalie, a beautiful and flirty blond becomes the other typist. Odalie is the opposite of Rose in every way; she has money, modern clothes and a lively social life. Rose quickly falls under Odalie’s spell. The reader knows from the beginning because Rose continues to share “but little did I know what would come next” asides. The reader doesn’t know if he/she is has stumbled into naïve, unreliable, criminal, crazy or a combination of all four.
The ending may or may not be what you expect. The final twist is very interesting and leaves the reader with options. I would love to know what option you pick.
I am fascinated by Europe in WWII and have read many books, both fiction and nonfiction about this time period. Italy was in a very unique situation as the war came to their homeland much later than the rest of Europe. First Italy was an ally of the Germans. When the Brits and Americans invaded and started fighting the Axis troops, Italy surrendered making the country an occupied battleground. Because of the late arrival and somewhat short occupation by the Germans, Italy saved more Jews than any other European country.
Based on positive reviews, I picked up The Light in the Ruins. It sounded like a don’t miss: the elite Rosati family protecting their villa in the last stage of the war, their daughter falling for a German officer, Italian artifacts, a serial killer targeting the family 11 years after the war and a female detective tracking the killer. It sounded like a page turner, and at the start it was. A little after midway, I lost interest and skimmed my way to the finish.
If you are interested in Italy during WWII, pick up a copy of A Thread of Grace by Mary Daria Russell. That is a page turner that will keep you interested until the very end without gimmicks.
The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison: Jodi and Todd met in college and have been together since. Their comfortable, pleasant, predictable and affluent lifestyle that comes with years of togetherness changes suddenly when Todd impregnates and agrees to marry his college aged girlfriend.
This well-written and thought out story is told through alternating “Him” and “Her” chapters. It is fascinating to watch the story unravel through the thoughts and actions of each person. It is a fascinating adventure into the logic, stories and rational we use to convince first ourselves and then then others.
If you have read other reviews you know Todd dies (not a spoiler, you learn this on the first page) and that a lot of time is spent reviewing Jodi’s childhood and family. Some readers really disliked this “side plot”, but I encourage you to read and make note of this history. One of the final points that the book that that we ultimately become our parents. This is obvious with Todd, but much more subtle with Jodi. This book has many levels which the back story builds. After finishing the book, think of all the ways the title applies to the story.
There a couple of unresolved questions at the end of the book, but I like that because it continues the suspense indefinitely. Besides, real life is not always full wrapped up with a pretty pink bow. It certainly was not for this author who passed away just a few months before publication of this book.
Of all the books that the mainstream media has hailed as the next Gone Girl (Reconstructing Amelia, The Shining Girls, The Never List), this is the only one I would recommend. Without the success Gone Girl and the hunger for the next version, this wonderful book would probably not have come to my attention.
I seem to have hit upon a 2013 reading theme that explores the justifications we create/tell ourselves and how those stories affect our lives and interactions with others. Other good books that have had me thinking about this theme are The Woman Upstairs, The Interestings, The Emperor’s Children, The Dinner, Tenth of December and The Burgess Boys.
I have mixed feelings about Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt and his story of the high society Johnston family of Charlotte, NC. Embracing cliche, here is my review:
The Good: There are several scenes that are so funny that they rival they the hilarity of Florence King’s writing. The absolute highlight is a Christmas that is your worst family nightmare brought to life.
The Bad: Each chapter is the story of one of the characters. This throws off the timeline, but the reader catches on quickly. What is frustrating is the chapters about the weaker and boring characters. Boring characters do not need the same amount of pages as the stronger and/or more interesting characters.
The Ugly: No Southern stereotype has been left of this book including Civil War worship, Confederate general relatives, debutant balls, crazy relatives, mean drunk fathers, antebellum homes, good manners, society events and a trailer park. The author takes particular glee in having this family fall off their perch so publicly.
I laughed out loud at several parts, skimmed many sections and enjoyed others. Overall I give this book a “just ok.”
& Sons by David Gilbert
A.N. Dryer wrote a very famous novel, Ampersand, about his prep school when his was a young man. The huge success of this novel greatly impacted his life, his sons lives and the life of his best friend’s son, Philip Topping. Facing his seemingly impending doom, Andrew calls his two adult sons to his home so they can meet his teenaged son Andy. An shorter summary: the adult sons’ lives suck in the shadow of the great author and his book.
Charlie Topping was Andrew’s best friend since childhood. Many of Andrews characters were based on Charlie. Letters from Andrew to Charlie and sections of Ampersand fill in the outline of this friendship. This is the central relationship to the entire book.
Many scenes, particularly those with the Dyer boys Richard, Jamie and Andy and those between Andrew and Charlie are narrated by Philip. Philip’s unreliability got me to thinking about the issues people carry around such as feelings of inferiority or socially awkwardness and how those feelings affect relationships. Some accept their situation and live a life within their social boundaries which ultimately allows for expansion. Others resist accepting the situation or the boundaries thus allowing anger and bitterness to actually make their lives smaller. The oblivious are in their own world, so the awkwardness nor boundaries matter. Poor Philip will never overcome his lot, self-imposed and otherwise.
This is a good book. I got frustrated with the detail, paragraphs and pages that did not really help build a character or advance the story. I wanted more of the Andrew Dyer and Charlie Topping friendship and less of the adult child blah, blah, blah. Blind alleys should only be part of the process in crime novels. A good editor could have helped the author streamline this book. That would have made this a 5 out of 5 star book rather than a 2.5 star book.
A long weekend means an extra day of reading! I plan to enjoy
& Sons by David Gilbert and Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barhardt.
What books will you read over Labor Day Weekend?