Tuesday, May 05, 2009

April Reading Round Up | Book Circle book of the Month Review

Break no bones/ Kathy Reichs
Struggling with a lackluster teaching position at an archaeology field school in South Carolina, Temperance Brennan discovers a fresh skeleton among ancient bones and traces leads to a free street clinic where patients are going missing. ~ from the blurb
Anyone who has read Reichs before will recognise the typical style of the book. But even so, I enjoyed the twisty bits.

The wedding officer / Anthony Capella
Naïve and already war-weary, James Gouding takes up a position in Naples in 1943. What he doesn't anticipate is that this involves a limited menu of fried Spam fritters and interrogating the would-be Italian fiancées of members of the armed forces. James's chance at true heroism arrives when a German tank is sighted and he is caught in its path. However, it is the imperious and dogmatic Livia who opens the hatch and yells at him to stop being such an idiot. Livia gladly becomes cook, translator and general factotum to James. The two begin to fall in love, but the eruption of Vesuvius triggers a chain of explosive events that will force the two to flee behind enemy lines and will alter their lives immeasurably.~ from the blurb
I really loved this one. I want to have an Italian grandmother who will cook me Italian food that gets described in this book. Apart from the salivatious (is that a word? if not it should be) food descriptions I also enjoyed the realistic romance.

Cataloochee: a novel /Wayne Caldwell
Against the backdrop of Appalachia comes a multilayered post-Civil War saga of three generations of families - their dreams, their downfalls, and their faith. Nestled in the mountains of North Carolina sits Cataloochee. In a time when "where you was born was where God wanted you," the Wrights and the Carters, both farming families, travel to the valley to escape the rapid growth of neighboring towns and to have a few hundred acres all to themselves. But progress eventually winds its way to Cataloochee, too, and year after year the population swells as more people come to the valley to stake their fortune. never one to pass on an opportunity, Ezra Banks, an ambitious young man seeking some land to call his own, arrives in Cataloochee in the 1880s. His first order of business is to marry a Carter girl, Hannah, the daughter of the valley's largest landowner. From there Ezra's brood grows, as do those of the Carters and the Wrights. With hard work and determination, the burgeoning community transforms wilderness into home, to be passed on through generations. But the idyll is not to last, nor to be inherited: The government takes steps to relocate the valley's people to make room for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and tragedy will touch one of the clans in a single, unimaginable act. ~from the blurb
Interesting story. Found the muti-layered aspect to it a wee bit confusing at first but the characters are intriguing. Quite good.

The memory keepers daughter / Kim Edwards
In a tale spanning twenty-five years, a doctor delivers his newborn twins during a snowstorm and, rashly deciding to protect his wife from their baby daughter's affliction with Down Syndrome, turns her over to a nurse, who secretly raises the child.~from the blurb
I admit I've put off reading this book because I thought I might find it too sad. I have a problem reading about "bad-things-happening-to-children" so was a little unsure if I'd like the book even though it had been recommended to me. As it turned out, I really did enjoy the book. Bad things don't happen to the child after all ;-) The character development in the book is great. Highly recommend it.

Letters from the Bay of Islands: the story of Marianne Williams / edited by Caroline Fitzgerald
Previously unpublished letters from Marianne Williams have been brought together into this book. Combined with background history and snippets of letters from her contemporaries and friends/relatives the book portrays the kind of life this pioneer of New Zealand had. I found the book very interesting from both the point of view of a New Zealander and a woman. We have such a cushy life in comparison. I also liked the primary source viewpoint on the relations between Maori and Europeans.

Book Circle: Book of the Month

In defense of food: the myth of nutrition and pleasures of eating / Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan's bracing and eloquent manifesto shows us how we might start making thoughtful food choices that will enrich our lives and our palates and enlarge our sense of what it means to be healthy~from the blurb

I knew that Pollan's book would appeal to me but wasn't sure how the rest of the book circle would feel about it! His style is easy to read but I thought the topic might be onerous for folks who aren't as obsessed with food like I am.

Pollan develops his thesis by discussing how we got from food to their individual components (e.g. vitamins) and why this has created problems for our society today in terms of health, biodiversity and even our social culture.

I particularly liked his advice (in the last chapters of the book) where he details his opening statement of Eat food. Not too much. Mainly plants.

I really do recommend this one especially if you are concerned about your family, the environment or your health. It's not preachy, it doesn't advocate going back to being hunter-gathers and it's not filled with scare-mongering hyperbole.

Read other reviews - updated as I read them or remember reading them (please remind me if you've already posted!). Or by visiting the list of book readers on my side bar :)
Sharon, Suzannah, Mel, Kate,

You can find more about Michael Pollan from his website but you can also listen to him here at TED Talks.


  1. Some fab reads here once again,Penny.

    Yay, am so pleased that you enjoyed MKD too! Wasn't it beautifully written? I do hope Kim Edwards writes another book in the near future.

    Need to do my review of In Defence of Food. Thought it was a real eye opener and must read too.

  2. Sorry boss! I totally ignored this month's book!
    Smack bum. I decided I needed a break. A really good foody book I recommend though, if you already haven’t read it, is: Devil’s picnic: Travels Through the Underworld of Food and Drink.

    It had me laughing out loud. Favourite moments include him going nuts in Singapore “breaking rules” including dancing around in his hotel room NAKED! spilling his drink in the subway, chewing gum and worst of all eating poppy seed crackers!!! LOL
    Here’s a quote that kinda gives you an idea of the book: "What a society ends up stigmatizing is often more revealing of its own phobias and prejudices than the inherent nefariousness of the substance in question."


  3. Yes I liked the Book Circle book becuase, like you, I am obsessed with food! Made so much sense.

    Just started the May b ook which I'm enjoying too - haven't had a lot of reading time so far this month (just 30mins before bed - wish I had more time)

  4. Almost finished the book, and will blog this weekend. It is my dream that I will at least one time this year- beat all virtual bookgroupers and be the first to blog on the book for the month!
    I can but dream/hope!
    K :-)