Book Reviews – February into March

Things have been so hectic between work and trying to get some things done here at the house that I haven’t really had time to devote to organizing and writing book reviews for many of the titles I’ve finished up recently. I thought, rather than try to pressure myself to review the back catalog for February into March, I’d do a brief summary of each here and then move forward into a (hopefully!) less busy and stressful April where I can get back into the habit of book review blogging!

  1. Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci. You probably know him for his roles in things like Julie and Julia, The Devil Wears Prada or The Hunger Games, but Stanley Tucci is a bona fide foodie. You might have caught one of his food and drink-related videos that went viral during the height of the pandemic. This is an autobiography, but one that focuses on the importance of food – and really GOOD food – in his life. I loved his memories of growing up in an Italian household, as well as some of his over-the-top cooking attempts at some very complex dishes. The last few chapters of the book chronicle his struggle with oral cancer, which drastically affected his sense of taste and his ability to eat (and which he was ultimately treated successfully for), and bring home the importance of everyday meals together with family, friends and loved ones. 4 out of 5 star read.
  2. The Widow Clicquot by Tilar Mazzeo. This is another food-related title although this one relates to the world of champagne production. Tracing the amazing story of “The Widow” Clicquot, as she was come to be known, this chronicles the story of the development of champagne as we know it today and the monster industry it’s become. Beginning in the years just before the French Revolution, Madame Clicquot built an empire impressive for any business-person but exceptionally impressive as a woman in that time. I loved all the wine-lover details about how the process of making champagne and it’s very nature changed over the final years of the 18th and into the 19th century, and how “The Widow” built herself an empire. 4 out of 5 star read.
  3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz. This one has been out for a while, but my friend, Jennie, sent me her copy to read and I’m so glad she did. I loved this book which is both about everything and nothing; ostensibly a book about two boys who become friends and grow up, but it’s also about family and finding yourself. A slow-paced, character-driven read, but one I wished I had to give copies to friends when I was in high school, and college, and probably even now in adulthood. I really loved this one. 4-1/2 out of 5 stars.
  4. The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman. One of my BOM books from the YA Fantasy club I’m in. This one focuses on 4 siblings, with all the sibling rivalry you might expect, set in a mythical version of India. The writing is lush and transportive, and the epic quest the siblings must embark on to save the country is engaging. I had a harder time with this one than others I’ve read this year simply because with all the characters who needed introducing, their personality development and their back stories, it felt like this one took a while to get going. It is the first of a 2-book series, so perhaps the pace picks up a bit in book #2? A 3-1/2 out of 5 star read.
  5. Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. Another YA Fantasy on the surface, but I’d also categorize this one as sci-fi, dystopian, and probably a few other things. A wildly unique blend of ancient Chinese culture, myth and legend with futuristic technology, a completely kick-ass heroine with a very different love triangle, that tackles difficult subjects like misogeny and the patriarchy, as well as gender identity and LGBTQ+ issues. Loads of triggers in this one so if you have any doubts, double-check the reader warnings before you begin. I wasn’t sure I would finish this one when I started (I’m not usually a fan of dystopian writing), but glad I kept on with it, since I wound up reading it in 3 days! 4 out of 5 stars.

I’m currently reading Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim, a historical fiction set in the second decade of the 20th century in Korea, and Gene Weingarten’s nonfiction book One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America. VERY different titles, but I’m greatly enjoying both of them. I am also still slowly working through Secondhand Time, which is about the years in Russia following the Cold War and the rise of Putin to power, but I am having a hard time getting through this book, as it is filled with a lot of sad things, given the current war in Ukraine, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Are you reading any good books right now?

2 thoughts on “Book Reviews – February into March

  1. These sound like a really varied and interesting set of books! I’m glad they were overall enjoyable. I’ve taken some champagne tasting classes, so I knew I liked drinking Veuve Clicquot, but I retained very little of the history of the Clicquot empire or the woman behind it. Very neat.

    For my own reading, I’ve mostly been disillusioned by my new books, so I’ve found solace in re-reading old favorites.

  2. Sometimes the old tried and trues are just what you need. We took a tour of a “sparkling wine” producer out in California which we really enjoyed. The science around making it work is pretty impressive.

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