Review: The Monk of Mokha

The Monk of Mokha - Dave EggersTitle: The Monk of Mokha
Author: Dave Eggers
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Genre: Nonfiction | Biography
Synopsis from Knopf
Book provided by PRHC

Review: When you drink a cup of coffee and savour the depth of its flavour do you ever wonder what goes into that perfect cup?  The MONK OF MOKHA is a fascinating story about Mokhtar Alkhanshali’s quest to revive Yemeni coffee while navigating the Yemen civil war in 2015.

Mokhtar is a Yemeni-American who grew up in San Francisco’s rougher Tenderloin District.  He worked as a ‘lobby ambassador’ in a high end apartment building and didn’t possess the bright future in law as was hoped of him.  While working Mokhtar noticed a statue across the street of a Yemeni man drinking coffee and thus gave him the idea to bring Yemeni coffee back to life.  It’s an interesting concept because Mokhtar knows nothing of coffee nor does he drink it and Yemen was in the midst of a civil war so I was hooked wanting to find out how this man successfully brought a $16 cup of coffee to San Francisco.

The process of growing coffee is finicky.  The coffee bean itself is deeply hidden within the cherry which must be separated to get to the bean.  The cherries are hand picked because they ripen at different times and only the red ones are picked for production.  A sensible picker will yield 360 pounds of ripe cherries per day.  The beans are sent to the mills and typically processed using the more common wet method which produces consistent quality at the expense of excessive amounts of water usage.  The less favourable method, and ancient process used in Yemen, is to dry the beans for 3-6 months and hand sort to remove any imperfect beans.  This method is less reliable as an overlooked defective bean can ruin an entire batch of coffee.

Mokhtar diligently studies coffee in the shops at home and the farms and production plants abroad.  He learns quickly the workers are exploited and has an idea to bring fair financial practice to all facets of the industry.

This book is so interesting – from the details of yielding the best coffee to exporting it out of civil war ridden Yemen, to the most expensive cup of coffee served at Blue Bottle in San Francisco.  I am recommending this book to all the coffee drinkers in my life.

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Review: The Immortalists

The Immortalists - Chloe BenjaminTitle: The Immortalists
Author: Chloe Benjamin
Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Literary
Synopsis from Penguin Random House Canada
Book provided by PRHC

Review: When I first glimpsed the gorgeous cover of THE IMMORTALISTS and read the startling synopsis I knew I wanted to read this book.  A beautifully written literary tragedy about the choices made when you know the date of your death.  Will the Gold siblings – Simon, Klara, Daniel, and Varya die on their respective dates because it is fate or because the prediction shapes the life choices they make?  Is the psychic’s taboo information a gift or a curse?

Written about each of the siblings in order of their death, the first half of the book is about dynamic Simon and Klara, whom stole the show, followed by the more conventional Daniel and Varya.  I was taken by Simon’s story of a teen boy coming out in gay San Francisco in the 1970’s.  He has unabashed sex with lots of men, uses drugs, and becomes a dancer at a gay club.  He ultimately succumbs to AIDS, or ‘gay cancer’ as it was known at the time, on his predicted day.  Klara accompanies Simon to San Francisco to study magic.  She perfects her act and moves to Las Vegas, marrying her stage partner, Raj and together they have a daughter named Ruby.  Daniel becomes a doctor in the military and craves a stable suburban lifestyle.  He confronts the psychic fraudster who delivers each siblings’ fate. Varya, given the longest to live, studies longevity in Rhesus monkeys and avoids risks and disallows herself to ‘live’ to cheat death.

The juxtaposition between Varya studying genetic longevity and Klara’s magic act that can’t bring Simon back is the ultimate coup de grace.  THE IMMORTALISTS is a heartbreaking look inside a family full of regrets, quarrels, resentment, and coping with alcoholism, depression, and OCD.

Review: Fierce Kingdom

DB69DF87-035D-43B5-84DB-4D62FBAFD9DFTitle: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: Fiction | Suspense & Thriller
Synopsis from Viking
Book provided by Goodreads giveaway

Review: It is rare I read a book and come away from it not having an opinion about it one way or another. That’s how I felt after reading FIERCE KINGDOM. I did not like this book nor did I dislike it. To be upfront this story is very disturbing. Three psychopaths gun down people in a zoo at closing time. Over the course of a three-hour period Joan’s survival instincts kick in to protect she and her 4-year-old son Lincoln.

I read this book in one day – it’s fast paced and kept me flipping the pages. Two parts of this book stood out for me. First, Joan’s quick and creative thinking are instrumental in their survival. I applaud her ability to keep Lincoln quiet and controlled which is no easy feat on a regular day but moreso when faced with a life and death situation. Second, when the teacher is confronted by one of the shooters and recounts him and other students she taught it’s a poignant reference to how many wound up as criminals.

I worry we have normalized mass shootings and while this book was an okay read I don’t ever want to connect leisure reading with such ugly acts of violence.

Review: The Queen of Hearts

The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery MartinTitle: The Queen of Hearts
Author: Kimmery Martin
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Women’s fiction
Synopsis from Berkley
Book provided by publisher

Review: One part medical drama and one part soap opera, THE QUEEN OF HEARTS is just what the doctor ordered.  This is a contemporary drama spanning a twenty year friendship between doctors, Zadie and Emma, highlighting the highs and lows of medical school, relationships, family, and careers.  A testament that extraordinary people have ordinary problems also.

Set in present day Charlotte, NC, the book alternates narratives between Zadie and Emma’s recollections of their third year in medical school. The flashbacks reveal a steamy romance between Zadie and their chief resident, ‘Dr. X’. Thru these revelations damages unfold as jealousy plagues their friendship and the strength it takes to truly forgive. Martin sprinkles in a few laughs throughout the story with Zadie’s youngest child, Delaney’s adorable antics.

As a long time admirer of shows like ER and Grey’s Anatomy, I really enjoyed the medical parts and jargon Martin injects into this story.

A delightful debut novel for fans of medical dramas, family life, and hospitals.

Review: Let Me Lie

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh Review
Title:
Let Me Lie
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Genre: Fiction | Thriller | Police Procedural
Synopsis from PRHC
Book provided by publisher

Review: After reading so many promising reviews about Clare Mackintosh’s previous books I found Let Me Lie to be light on suspense with disappointing plot twists and so many lies the whole thing started to feel convoluted. I prefer my thrillers to keep me on the edge of suspense and this one lacked the element of surprise.

Lately anything written and promoted in the same vain as The Girl on the Train, The Woman in Cabin 10, or Into the Water isn’t of interest to me. Those types of books seem to cast a negative light on women – either they are suffering mental illness, abuse, or some unfavourable condition and always portrayed as weak.

The writing was good and I liked the multiple points of view but wasn’t entirely sure the reason for the unidentified narrator because it seemed obvious to me who it was.  I found myself enjoying the parts about Murray and Sarah and their relationship more than anything.

Overall, this book was okay but I will definitely go back and pick up Mackintosh’s I Let You Go.