Jade Chang’s debut novel The Wangs vs. the World first came to my attention a couple of years ago when I won a signed copy in a giveaway from a fellow blogger. It’s been on my shelf ever since. This year, I’m trying to do a better job of reading my shelves — though I’m only doing an okay job due to the many new releases I just can’t stop requesting from the library — and so recently, while waiting for some holds to come in, I decided to give this one a try.
The blurb promises hilarity, and I was looking forward to some laughs. And, in full disclosure, I thought it might contain some interesting food I could make for a post. It didn’t quite deliver on the laughs, but it certainly did make for an interesting food experience (but more on that later).
As a lover of food memoirs, culinary news and food in general, Laura Shapiro’s nonfiction What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories has been on my TBR since it’s release two years ago. I have been meaning to do a review-recipe series on it for far too long, and that day has finally come! This post is the first in the series, so I’ll give a brief overview of the book before diving into the first woman’s story.
As the blurb says, “everyone eats, and food touches on every aspect of our lives—social and cultural, personal and political. Yet most biographers pay little attention to people’s attitudes toward food.” Those of you who enjoy food memoirs like me know that, while food plays an important part in the storytelling, those memoirs are rarely just about food. They are about the human experience. So much insight can be drawn from not only what people eat, but how and why.
Prior to Victoria Schade’s Life on the Leash, I’ve suffered through two 1-star dog-centric reads.* Thank goodness this light-hearted rom com of a novel has broken my mini-streak of disappointing books about dogs!
Cora is the owner of a successful dog training business in D.C. She loves filling her days with tricks, treats and training before coming home to her own loveable pup and an amazing supportive roommate. In growing her business (and smarting from a painful breakup), Cora isn’t exactly looking for love.
I recently heard about John Marrs’ novel The One on the Currently Reading podcast, in an episode about “Books to Blow Your Socks Off.” (The episode was also amazing because it included an interview with Delia Owens, who wrote a wonderful recent favorite of mine, Where the Crawdads Sing.) The description was brief but intriguing, and I immediately rushed to get a copy from the library.
It takes place in a “near future,” one in which it has been discovered that people can be matched to their soulmates through their DNA. It’s 10 years after that discovery, and those who have been lucky enough to find “the one” are considered Matched and those who are still waiting are Unmatched. Because you can be matched to literally anyone, racism, homophobia, and religious and other prejudices no longer exist.
Ever since Julie & Julia hit theaters 10 years ago, it has been one of my favorite movies. Until recently, I had never read the book it was based on. Julie Powell’s memoir Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously is based on the year she spent cooking all of the recipes in Julia Child’s legendary cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it. Perhaps you can see why I love the story so.
Not much over the course of Julie’s memoir was surprising to me, though certainly elements of it had been left out of the more streamlined movie (also paired with Julia’s life story, where Meryl Streep plays the iconic chef). I have to say, though, the book lacked the charm with which the movie nestled into my heart.
When I went to the library recently, the brightly colored cover of Allie Rowbottom’s Jell-O Girls caught my eye. I took it down to flip through it, and the blurbs proclaiming it as “an artfully crafted feminist excavation of an American legacy” and “an important and honest feminist history for right now” sealed the deal.
The book is part family memoir and part nonfiction. In turns, it focuses on Allie’s family history and the so-called “curse” that plagued their men — the family’s fortune earned when her great-great-great-uncle bought the patent for Jell-O for just $450 in 1899 — as well as Jell-O’s history through a feminist lense.
Though Louise Miller wrote The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living first, it is the second of her novels that I’ve read. Earlier this year, I picked up The Late Bloomer’s Club and adored it, falling in love with the town of Guthrie (Stars Hollow flashbacks!) as well as her food-filled writing. The paperback cover makes it look perfect for winter reading, so I waited until my holiday break to get it from the library. It wasn’t super winter-y, but it was a lovely read nonetheless!
Olivia Rawlings, Livvy to a privileged few, is a talented pastry chef working at an exclusive dinner club in Boston. When her life there goes up in flames, she flees to the nearest haven — a truck stop filled with delicious pies — and onto Guthrie, Vermont, where her best friend Hannah convinces her to put down roots, even temporarily.
The time of year has come where I’m choosing to settle in with cozy books, and Ruth Reichl’s food-centric novel Delicious! fit that bill perfectly. Reichl is a well-known food writer, and her past certainly helped her craft the core of this novel, since the main character Billie Breslin works at the prominent (but fictional) food magazine, Delicious.
Billie has a phenomenal palate and can detect even the slightest amount of ingredients in a recipe with just a bite. It’s this gift — along with her appreciation of and curiosity about food — that earns her a job as assistant to Jake, the editor of Delicious. Billie fits in instantly, at home among people who are equally passionate about food, and her future is looking bright. But, when the magazine suddenly shuts down, her work family disperses, and she’s left alone in the office (housed in a 19th century mansion) to make good on the Delicious Guarantee.
Like much of America, I’ve been looking forward to Michelle Obama’s book Becoming since the moment it was announced. As much as I’ve admired her from afar, I honestly never knew much about Michelle and was excited for the opportunity to learn more — from her, in her own voice.
Michelle’s writing is as engaging as expected. From the beginning of the memoir — a section entitled “Becoming Me,” in which she describes her life growing up on the South Side of Chicago — to the end of “Becoming More” — the final section in which she discusses her and her family’s life in the spotlight while Barack held office — it was a joy to get to know her better.
Like many girls, I grew up with Anne Shirley. I adored her big imagination and found it amusing to watch her get into and out of trouble. Just as important to the story are Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, the brother-sister duo who give Anne a home at Green Gables. In her latest novel, Marilla of Green Gables, Sarah McCoy explores what life was like for the Cuthberts before Anne arrived.
The young Marilla — idealistic and eager to please — reminded me a lot of precocious Anne, which is not what I expected. Still, we’re all young once, and I thought Saray McCoy did a wonderful job showing Marilla’s transformation from a clever, spirited teenager to the woman we came to know in L.M. Montgomery’s novels. Though for some reason the story felt more modern to me, I thought she captured Avonlea beautifully; I found myself wishing I were there yet again.