Book Review: Sourdough

IMG_0929Title: Sourdough
Author: Robin Sloan
Publisher: MCD / Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

From FSG: Lois Clary is a software engineer at General Dexterity, a San Francisco robotics company with world-changing ambitions. She codes all day and collapses at night, her human contact limited to the two brothers who run the neighborhood hole-in-the-wall from which she orders dinner every evening. Then, disaster! Visa issues. The brothers close up shop, and fast. But they have one last delivery for Lois: their culture, the sourdough starter used to bake their bread. She must keep it alive, they tell her—feed it daily, play it music, and learn to bake with it.

Lois is no baker, but she could use a roommate, even if it is a needy colony of microorganisms. Soon, not only is she eating her own homemade bread, she’s providing loaves daily to the General Dexterity cafeteria. The company chef urges her to take her product to the farmer’s market, and a whole new world opens up.

When Lois comes before the jury that decides who sells what at Bay Area markets, she encounters a close-knit club with no appetite for new members. But then, an alternative emerges: a secret market that aims to fuse food and technology. But who are these people, exactly?

My Review: SOURDOUGH is the most unique book I’ve read to date. A magnificent marriage between software robotics and sourdough starter. The concept is so far out that it’s brilliant!

When Lois inherits the sourdough starter from her favourite hole-in-the-wall restaurant complete with instructions to feed it and grow it she never imagined the new life she and her starter would take on.  Lois feeds the starter and plays music to it and in return the starter sings and gurgles and produces loaf after loaf of delicious sourdough bread loved by her friends and co-workers.

Soon the high demands of her engineering job get in the way of her sourdough production and Lois must choose between her well paid, intense career where she’s overworked and plagued with an unhealthy gut or design a robotic arm to make her beloved sourdough bread.

SOURDOUGH is charming, soul-warming and makes me wish I had my very own starter culture to dote over and bake bread from.

 

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August Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0843Hi, Book Friends! It’s the end of August and the end of summer. I read 10 books the month of August and don’t know if it’s because I had that much more free time or neglected some responsibilities, or both! And, all of these books with the exception of one were 4 or 5-star reviews – woohoo!

MRS. FLETCHER – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adored Mrs. Fletcher. It’s a literary, coming-of-age story journeying thru personal growth, respect and acceptance.
P.S. I STILL LOVE YOU – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Han’s narrative is adorable and upbeat making this an engaging and enjoyable story.
THE GODDESSES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I was sucked in from the get go because I can relate to Nancy’s need to find her purpose in a new place as a stay at home mom, which isn’t always easy.
YOUNG JANE YOUNG – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with.
MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A bookstore mystery flanked by eccentric characters and a twisty plot – readers rejoice!
DEAD WOMAN WALKING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about a hot air balloon ride gone dangerously wrong when the passengers witness a cold blooded murder in the act on the ground below them.
LAB GIRL – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A scientific, biographical memoir depicting the author’s personal journey becoming a woman in science filled to the brim with passion, drive, emotion and rawness.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.
THE FUTURES – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Brilliantly weaves together a story about first careers, young love and the financial crisis of 2008.
THINGS THAT HAPPENED BEFORE THE EARTHQUAKE – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A story about an Italian immigrant family moving to LA to strike it rich in commercials in the early 1990’s. The themes are funny, disturbing, moving but most of all spot on. (Book Review coming soon)

Book Review: Young Jane Young

YOUNG JANE YOUNG BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN BOOK REVIEWTitle: Young Jane Young
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Publisher: Algonquin Books & PRH Canada
Publication Date: August 22 & 29, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Algonquin: Aviva Grossman, an ambitious congressional intern in Florida, makes the mistake of having an affair with her boss–and blogging about it. When the affair comes to light, the beloved congressman doesn’t take the fall. But Aviva does, and her life is over before it hardly begins: slut-shamed, she becomes a late-night talk show punch line, anathema to politics.

She sees no way out but to change her name and move to a remote town in Maine. This time, she tries to be smarter about her life and strives to raise her daughter, Ruby, to be strong and confident. But when, at the urging of others, Aviva decides to run for public office herself, that long-ago mistake trails her via the Internet and catches up–an inescapable scarlet A. In the digital age, the past is never, ever, truly past. And it’s only a matter of time until Ruby finds out who her mother was and is forced to reconcile that person with the one she knows.

*Thank you to Algonquin Books, PRH Canada and Netgalley for providing me this free digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

My Review: YOUNG JANE YOUNG is guaranteed to resonate with anyone who loves contemporary women’s fiction. I was fully invested in this book and read it in two days. Yes, Aviva makes horrible mistakes in her youth and yes, she owns them and I think it strengthens who she is as a woman but the wide reaching impact is haunting and inescapable. I am blown away by these types of political sex scandals where male politicians walk away unscathed.

YOUNG JANE YOUNG elicits a range of emotions in response to events and situations that are real and relatable but presented in a light and upbeat framework. Zevin’s writing is masterful. My connection to Rachel, Aviva and Ruby was palpable and I felt it in my heart and my gut. This is a story about three generations of Jewish women you will fall in love with. Rachel is recently divorced and doesn’t want to be alone so she takes the advice of her best friend and tries online dating. You can imagine a divorcee in her 60’s who doesn’t mince words with her dates, I found her experience hilarious. Meanwhile, her daughter Aviva is dealing with the fallout from her sex scandal with a congressman. Pregnant, jobless and husbandless she leaves Miami and reinvents herself in Allison Springs, Maine. When she embarks on her own political career her adorable thirteen year old daughter Ruby, who is wise beyond her years, learns the truth about her mother’s past and handles it as a teenager would by running off to Miami to meet the father she thought was dead.

If you love a story that is funny, fresh and poignant then YOUNG JANE YOUNG is not to be missed and should be high on your reading list!

Book Review: The Goddesses

IMG_0761Title: The Goddesses
Author: Swan Huntley
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Doubleday: When Nancy and her family arrive in Kona, Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy’s husband has cheated on her; they sleep in separate bedrooms and their twin sons have been acting out, setting off illegal fireworks. But Hawaii is paradise: they plant an orange tree in the yard; they share a bed once again and Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. Ana has short, black hair, a warm smile, and a hard-won wisdom that resonates deeply within Nancy. They are soon spending all their time together, sharing dinners, relaxing in Ana’s hot tub, driving around Kona in the cute little car Ana helps Nancy buy. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana—skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices she feels a happiness and understanding unlike anything she’s ever experienced, and she knows that she will do anything Ana asks of her. A mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation set against the idyllic tropical world of the Big Island, The Goddesses is a stunning psychological novel by one of our most exciting young writers.

My Review: I always love a good family theatrics read and THE GODDESSES did not disappoint! I was sucked in from the get go because I can relate to Nancy’s need to find her purpose in a new place as a stay at home mom, which isn’t always easy.

THE GODDESSES is flanked by a cast of unlikable characters but I couldn’t put this book down because they are a captivating bunch and I needed to know what was coming around every bend – and there are many! Ana is an outwardly sick, twisted and disgusting person. She preys on Nancy’s marital discord and vulnerability and takes things waaaay too far with her son’s.

I was mesmerized by the backdrop of the Big Island, Hawaii – sitting in the jacuzzi and listening to the waves crashing, yoga under the sun and the references made about Costco – because I’m a frequent Costco shopper!

This is my first Huntley book and her writing is brilliant! The storyline is not unique but the characters are rich  – each has an underlying story of their own which makes them so real and relatable. And the twisty plot made me devour this book in just a couple of days.

June Book Wrap-Up

IMG_0628Happy Summer! Yesterday was the last day of school for my kids so we are officially on summer break. The plan is to enjoy a couple weeks of downtime including chilling at the beach and pool, which is code for R-E-A-D-I-N-G. Mid-month I’m taking my kiddos to visit my parents for 3 weeks – woo hoo! We will be swimming, shopping, sewing and reading. My mom is a huge reader so I look forward to lots of book discussions with her.

I read some great books in June. It’s a toss-up between Beartown and UNSUB for my favourite. Both were amazing stories that kept me fully engaged from the first page to the last page. What are you reading this summer?

The People We Hate at the Wedding – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
The People We Hate at the Wedding is scores of family dynamics and dysfunction. It was like watching an upper echelon reality show chock-full of painful moments and endless entertainment.

The Fourth Monkey – ⭐️⭐️ / 5
The Fourth Monkey is portrayed as a cross between Se7en and Silence of the Lambs. Both movies are creepy, have disturbing aspects, literally keep you on edge but most of all stay with you. Years later you still remember those movies and may re-watch them. The Fourth Monkey has none of those attributes. It did not check off those typical suspense / thriller checkboxes for me. I am surprised because a bit of research into J.D. Barker and he has some near-award worthy books out there, unfortunately this one isn’t one of them.

Beartown – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book can be summarized in one word: POWERFUL! Beartown instilled emotion in me that made my heart want to explode from page one. Backman transported me into a place where I could feel the pain of every resident who inhabited Beartown, flailing on the cusp of survival but longing for so much more.

Chemistry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Chemistry is a uniquely written story that reads like a non-fiction book. Wang’s brilliant depiction of an unnamed woman who recounts why she left a chemistry PhD program is coursely humourous. This kind of fiction writing is a departure from what I would normally pick up and read but I am so glad I ventured outside of my reading comfort zone. This book is written like a succinct diary and reads quickly so if you are looking for a book in between heavier stories this one is perfect.

Sweet Home Cowboy – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This was my first book from the Love at the Chocolate Shop series and I thought it was a cute story. This was a pretty big variation in my reading choice. I normally don’t read romance-y books and definitely not western’s but this was light on the western romance. I thought it was entertaining and quick to read – perfect for summertime sitting poolside or at the beach.

UNSUB – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
UNSUB is the most intense and engrossing book I have read, which speaks volumes because I have read many true crime books. This book is fiction but Meg Gardiner made it feel like true crime. The story is a takeoff of the Zodiac Killer that haunted the Bay Area in the 60’s and 70’s but with a dialled up creepy factor. This book is not for the squeamish – it’s graphic and cuts to the quick, but totally suitable for any true crime lover. And the best part, a sequel is coming! This is a series I look forward to and know I will dig into.

The Secrets of Married Women – ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
Jill, Wendy and Leigh are best friends, each have very different personalities. Jill is married to Rob of 10 years, they adore each other but can’t have children because Rob is infertile. Wendy and Neil buried their baby daughter Nina and Wendy has never recovered from the loss but rarely complains and puts on a happy face. Leigh’s husband, Lawrence is a stay at home dad with OCD. He loves her dearly, would do anything for her but she no longer feels that spark with him and finds him a bit of a wuss.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5
This book is super-cute! I listened to the audio book version narrated by Laura Knight Keating. Her narration is amazingly authentic as if Lara Jean herself were reading the story out loud. This book is entertaining and fast-paced making it a perfect summertime read.

Book Review: The Secrets of Married Women

IMG_0624Title: The Secrets of Married Women
Author: Carol Mason
Publisher: Lake Union
Format: Digital ARC
Verdict: Borrow it from the library
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Lake Union Publishing: When Jill’s husband discovers he can never have children, it tears a hole in their marriage that Jill doesn’t know how to repair. Frustrated, she seeks comfort in her friends: fierce Leigh, with her high-powered career and doting family, and sweet, uncomplicated Wendy, who has a rock-solid marriage any woman would envy.

Leigh and Wendy’s lives seem perfect. But beneath the surface are secrets that could tear their friendship apart.

Leigh has grown tired of her stay-at-home husband and is looking for excitement—outside of the marriage bed. And after seventeen years of marriage, Wendy can’t shake the sense that there is something missing in her life.

As Jill is drawn deeper into her friends’ relationships, she is confronted by a temptation of her own: an intriguing stranger whose good looks and charm spark an instant connection.

Full of the realities of modern-day marriage, The Secrets of Married Women asks the question: how well can we ever know our husbands, our friends, or even ourselves?

My Review: Jill, Wendy and Leigh are best friends, each have very different personalities. Jill is married to Rob of 10 years, they adore each other but can’t have children because Rob is infertile. Wendy and Neil buried their baby daughter Nina and Wendy has never recovered from the loss but rarely complains and puts on a happy face. Leigh’s husband, Lawrence is a stay at home dad with OCD. He loves her dearly, would do anything for her but she no longer feels that spark with him and finds him a bit of a wuss.

Leigh gets a hairbrained idea to have an affair, six weeks tops and no strings attached. Lawrence isn’t cutting it anymore and she needs to rev up her sex life because life is too short. The affair creates a chain reaction that throws the lives of three families off the rails. Jill and Wendy get caught in Leigh’s crosshairs where jealousy and deceit know no boundaries.

I enjoyed this story but with mixed feelings. Leigh’s behaviour was disheartening and reminded me of the jealous best friend in high school-type who stole your other friend’s boyfriend and then talked you into destroying your relationship too. You know the type?! I sympathized with Jill because her situation was sad for both she and Rob and her behaviour motives weren’t intended to cause destruction. Despite all of the betrayal there is a small silver lining at the end.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with this digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Chemistry

Chemistry by Weike Wang Book ReviewTitle: Chemistry
Author: Weike Wang
Publisher: Knopf
Format: Ebook
Verdict: Read it
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Knopf: Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

My Review: Chemistry is a uniquely written story that reads like a non-fiction book. Wang’s brilliant depiction of an unnamed woman who recounts why she left a chemistry PhD program is coursely humourous. This kind of fiction writing is a departure from what I would normally pick up and read but I am so glad I ventured outside of my reading comfort zone. This book is written like a succinct diary and reads quickly so if you are looking for a book in between heavier stories this one is perfect.

The main character reaches a boiling point in her academic career and walks away from the program when she fails to make the leap from technician to scientist. She suffers a breakdown and her boyfriend, Eric, who keeps asking her to marry him, and she repeatedly puts him off, suggests she seek professional help. During her counselling sessions, with ‘the shrink’, the character takes us thru her upbringing as an only child of Chinese immigrant parents, their own personal struggles coming to the United States and the high expectations they placed on her. She wonders what it is like growing up in Eric’s family having your mother slip notes of encouragement into your lunch box every day in contrast to her dysfunctional family. Her parents do not get along with each other, often throw things in the house and show her no compassion and understanding.

What I really enjoyed about this book is how the main character’s ramblings are random but purposeful. They are humourously dry, totally factual and every bit entertaining. What I found unique is Wang’s decision to name only one character in the story, Eric, and everyone else was a descriptor; the shrink, the best friend, the lab mate, the dog. I can only speculate that Wang did this to drive home the importance Eric was to the unnamed woman.

The ending was abrupt and I would have liked to see where the unnamed woman’s future took her but overall it was an enjoyable read.