Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Very Short Book Reviews

Windy, chilly March has been a busy month for reading: three books for three book clubs and four strictly for entertainment and only one unfinishable one in the bunch. I try to keep track of books to recommend, so here's the rundown.
The Apprentice, my life in the kitchen, a memoir by chef Jacques Pepin transcends the memoir niche becoming an engaging story of growing up in France during the war, learning cooking the old fashioned way and moving to America to find fame and fortune. Recommended for readers who like light memoirs and cooking stories. The BHPL Friday bookgroup enjoyed this selection.
The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny, the third in her Three Pines mysteries set in Quebec, finds inspector Gamache solving a mysterious death during a seance. I loved the first two in the series and this one was a bit weaker, so start with Still Life, then A Fatal Grace.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen needs little explanation by now, a bestseller and reading group favorite about a veterinary student who runs away with the circus during the depression. Everyone loves this book it seems, and so did I.
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson, a fender bender in Edinburgh leads to murder and strange connections and coincidences among the accident's witnesses. I couldn't put this down and look forward to reading more books by this author.
Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor. This small gem is an epistolary novel set during the 1930's. Two friends, one American, one German, exchange letters reflecting their ever diverging political views. The ending is a satisfying twist of revenge. See review in previous post.
The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery. I tried to get one of my book groups to read this non-fiction account of a vegetarian naturalist, Montgomery, who takes in a runt piglet, Christopher Hogwood. Christopher becomes a celebrity of sorts in their small New Hampshire town. The book groupers voted this title down, with howls of derision, actually. I concede, it may not be a good book for discussing, but it is really charming and I learned a lot about pigs.
Finally, the least of all, BHPL's Tuesday book group read Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. I didn't get too far into this book, but the first 35 pages seemed to be saying: women are more verbal and emotional than men. Men are task/action oriented and women are nurturing. And it said it again, and again, and again using the Martian/Venetian metaphor for explanation. In the early '90's those ideas seemed to be interesting insights, which have now become part of pop culture with some basis, perhaps, in neuroscience and psychology. Readers can probably gain some insights from this book, but don't spend too much time to ponder the writing style or the accuracy of the theories.

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