Delicious! – Ruth Reichl
Genre: Foodie fiction, fiction
Ruth Reichl is well known for her non-fiction food writing, none of which I have read. Delicious! is the author’s first work of fiction, one which has a backdrop of food to it. The book’s storyline seemed utterly charming – with an old-fashioned mansion, lots of food, a girl who can sniff out secret ingredients in any dish she just tastes once, eccentric librarians, letters, the most gorgeous of libraries, and batty old ladies. All of this notwithstanding, I ended up super-duper disappointed by the book.
The elements that the storyline is made up of are quite charming per se, but the storyline itself seems highly contrived and unrealistic. I was left looking for the point of a few chapters in the book. The author builds up hype about characters and their deep, dark secrets which, when revealed, are oh-so-disappointing. The heroine sounded quite dumb, in spite of her considerable talents, and the side characters were quite sad too.
Considering that the book is over 300 pages long, it took me a long, long, long time to finish it. Only to feel so very let down in the end. And, it was an anniversary present, too. Bah!
Barnheart: The Incurable Longing For A Farm Of One’s Own – Jenna Woginrich
Genre: Farm memoir, non-fiction
Jenna Woginrich suffers from ‘Barnheart’, ‘the incurable longing for a farm of one’s own’. She doesn’t own a house of her own yet, but she craves to have a little farm of her own, where she can grow her own vegetables and meat, have some cattle, produce her own milk and eggs. She is a beginner homesteader, and she can’t wait to start farming at the small rented cottage life brings her to, by chance. Barnheart is Jenna’s memoir of how this goes along.
I have mixed feelings about this book. There is no actual depth in the narration of the memoir, considering that Jenna is very much an amateur homesteader. I have read really inspiring farm memoirs by experienced farmers, and this book is nowhere near that. In fact, Jenna comes across as a little too presumptuous to bring in poultry and other animals to her rented cottage without her landlord’s permission, and to try to make do with the very limited resources she has. Now, a farm needs what a farm needs, and you cannot do all of that in a rented place!
That said, I felt the good thing is that Jenna seems to learn from her mistakes – she seemed to be learning as she went along the process of farming. She is determined to farm, come what may, and she learns how to do it the way she can.
This book will not really offer you any detailed insights about homesteading or farming per se, but it will definitely inspire you to at least start a little balcony garden or do the little bit you can to consume organic food, eat locally, and grow your own vegetables. It is a light, quick read, without getting too deep.
This is one farm memoir you can skip, I think – there are far better ones out there. That said, if you are looking for a light read, this is a good one.
The Yorkshire Pudding Club – Milly Johnson
Genre: Fiction, chick-lit
This one was proper chick-lit, with a whole lot of unrealistic scenarios thrown in, but I still enjoyed it. I didn’t love it, really, but didn’t hate it either.
The Yorkshire Pudding Club is the story of three women – Janey, Elizabeth and Helen – who have been friends since school. They are in their late 30s now, each one in a different kind of relationship. One fine day, the three friends visit an ancient fertility symbol, and only half-heartedly believe the recent statistics that 70% of the women who have visited the symbol have gotten pregnant. Soon enough, though, all three friends find themselves pregnant. What they go through in pregnancy – physically and mentally – and how this transforms them is what makes up the bulk of this book.
The characters are very real, the writing flows, and I was engrossed by the book till the very end. In spite of some rather unrealistic situations, as I said earlier. The author has done a wonderful job of depicting the aches and pains and joys of pregnancy, and it reminded me of the days when I was pregnant with my daughter. I loved the sort of camaraderie that the three friends shared in the book too – it had me aching for those kinds of girlfriends, too. The heroines aren’t entirely dumb here, as you come to expect of a chick-lit. You sort of start liking them along the way, and rooting for them.
The book makes for a fun, light read that is perfect for dull days, if you don’t look for logic in every scene. That said, there are some beautiful, very real-life-like moments in there – the author has done a brilliant job with that.
All in all, I would say the book was a read that I enjoyed.
A Spring Affair – Milly Johnson
Genre: Fiction, chick-lit
Lou Winter seems to have it all – a happy married life, a fantabulous house, a part-time job that allows her to take care of her family, and a husband whose career is on the rise. When she reads an article about the importance of tidying up, in a magazine while waiting at the dentist’s, little does Lou know that it is going to change her life for ever. She begins with cleaning out the clutter from different parts of her house, and finds that she just cannot stop. She has to clear away the clutter on a much deeper level, too, before she can find peace. This and more is what makes up the story of Milly Johnson’s A Spring Affair.
I picked up the book because the premise sounded so very interesting, and because I have read and enjoyed The Yorkshire Pudding Club by the same author recently. Sadly, though, this book disappointed me utterly. The characters felt dumb, unrealistic, and not at all likeable. I am okay with a few chick-lit-like situations in a book, but this book is entirely unrealistic chick-lit. The situations, the storyline, everything disappointed. 😦 And, all this, after I spent close to a month reading this 300+-page tome!
Garden Spells – Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Magic realism, fiction
I was hesitant to pick up this book because I have been burned by this author in the past, badly. I read her The Sugar Queen a few years back, and absolutely hated it. It was nowhere near the sweet, magical realism book I was expecting it to be. That explains why I never picked up anything by the author for so long. Big mistake.
Last week, I discovered I had Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells on my Kindle (Yes, I download books and then forget all about them!), and began to read it on a whim. I remembered reading a couple of very good reviews about the book, too, so I went ahead and plunged in too. If I hated it too much, I could always abandon it mid-way, right? But then, I didn’t have to do that – not at all. The book drew me in from the first chapter itself, and went on drawing me in, deeper and deeper.
Garden Spells is the story of Claire Waverley and Sydney Waverley, sisters of the Waverley clan, who are somewhat of a mystery in the small Southern town of Bascom that they belong to. Claire has been living in her Grandma Waverley’s old mansion in Bascom, trying to recreate her magical recipes that cause certain effects on people (a pie that will make a gushing young man slightly less interested in a woman, for instance!). The Waverley garden (with the apple tree whose fruits show the eater what the biggest events in their life will be) is Claire’s domain. When Sydney comes to live with Claire in Bascom, with something to hide, and her little daughter Bay in tow, Claire feels threatened. Do the sisters succeed in bonding with each other or not? Will Claire get over her insecurities? Just what is Sydney trying to hide? All of that and more makes up the storyline of Garden Spells.
I found the book oh-so-breezy and beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, in spite of the slightly dramatic ending (and a couple of other parts that are very Bollywood,too). The author’s writing is effortless, but mesmerising. The magic realism is subtle, and intriguing. The characters are cleverly sketched (including an old woman, Evanelle, who gives people things before they know they are going to need them!). The storyline is well-crafted, and it had me hooked till the very end. The author has done a brilliant job of portraying moments in Sydney and Claire’s lives – she has an enchanting way of describing things, for sure.
This is one book that I would urge all lovers of magic realism to read.
The Girl Who Chased The Moon – Sarah Addison Allen
Genre: Fiction, magic realism
I really liked the author’s Garden Spells, which I read a while back, but absolutely hated her The Sugar Queen. So, I was skeptical while picking up another book by the author – The Girl Who Chased The Moon. The storyline sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a shot. Sadly, though, the book turned out to be super-duper disappointing.
The writing, this time, seemed forced and not at all gripping. The book felt like it was written in a hurry. The characters weren’t likeable at all. The storyline wasn’t gripping at all – there were twists and turns in the story, but they too seemed forced. In fact, I felt like I kept waiting for the story to start happening till the very end of the book!
The magic realism part of it lacked the subtlety and beauty that the author has displayed in Garden Spells. There is wallpaper that changes its designs as per a person’s mood and a man who can sniff out flour and sugar and cakes from just about anywhere, but everything seemed lacklustre. There is romance in the book, too, but not sweet – that too seemed forced.
Overall, this wasn’t a book that I liked – right from the start to the end.
Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts about them?
What are you reading at the moment?