Katie′s #CBR5 Review #23: Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Title: Under the Tuscan Sun
Author: Frances Mayes
Source: library
Rating: 
Review Summary: This is a wholesome, lovely, refreshing read with lyrical prose describing a beautiful location but it is a little undirected.

First let me tell you what this book isn’t. It’s nothing like the movie; it’s not a romance; and it isn’t even a book with much of a plot. Instead, it’s a beautiful collection of anecdotes loosely tied together by the progression of time. The primary focus is on the author’s experiences restoring a Tuscan villa, but her focus on food is a close second. Some of her experiences as a tourist remind me of a travel memoir, but I particularly enjoyed the other parts that describe the experience of actually living in Italy.

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Katie′s #CBR5 Review #22: Special Offers by M. L. Ryan

Title: Special Offers
Author: M. L. Ryan
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: 
Review Summary: A nice light read with a well developed paranormal element, a fun romantic sub-plot, and a great sense of humor.

When Hailey orders a cheaper kindle with “special offers”, she gets more than she bargained for. Through a strange series of events, a super-natural being named Sebastian has been trapped in the kindle and is released to inhabit Hailey’s body when she turns the kindle on. Fortunately for Hailey, another super-natural (and also super sexy) being is look for Sebastian. With his help, perhaps she’ll be able to retrieve Sebastian’s body from his killer and put him back where he belongs.

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Katie′s #CBR5 Review #20: The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

Title: The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World
Author: Michael Pollan
Source: library 
Rating: 
Fun Fact: A tulip grown from seed doesn’t flower for 7 years!
Review Summary: This was one of the most fun non-fiction books I’ve read, because of both the content and the author’s enthusiasm.

The author’s starting premise in The Botany of Desire has two fascinating parts. First, that plants benefit greatly from domestication, so our relationship with them could just as easily be viewed as them domesticating us. And second, that domesticated plants have evolved to meet some basic human desire, making plants of the past a great way to learn about what previous civilizations valued. The bulk of the book is devoted to stories of particular plants that illustrate this point. Although I expected more of a history of the plants in question (the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato), I very much enjoyed the collection of anecdotes presented instead.

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Katie′s #CBR5 Review #19: And Then She Fell by Stephanie Laurens

Title: And Then She Fell
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: 
Review Summary: The unique premise and appealing heroine made this both a great romance and an exciting mystery.

Henrietta Cynster doesn’t believe she’s meant to fall in love. Instead she’s devoted her time to helping other young women determine if their suitors are truly motivated by love. However, when she breaks up a match that was motivated by good intentions (but not love) she feels honor-bound to help James find another bride. This being a romance, Henrietta and James are immediately attracted to one another, but their own stubbornness and some societal constraints have to be overcome before they realize it. Once they do, the book becomes largely a mystery, although one intended mainly to highlight the depths of their feeling for each other.

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Katie′s #CBR5 Review #18: An Elegant Madness by Venetia Murray

Title: An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England
Author: Venetia Murray
Source: library
Rating: 
Fun Fact: In Regency England it was considered a great honor to be invited to watch the fashion icon Beau Brummel get dressed.
Review Summary: The tone is straightforward and factual, but the information included is fascinating and engaging all on its own.

Regency England was a time period that technically lasted from 1811-1820 and which you might recognize as the setting of the genre known as “regency romances”. An Elegant Madness is an impressively thorough discussion of the time period, with chapters on everything from clothes to dinners, to society and scandalous sex lives. Although the author’s tone is fairly scholarly and dry, the topics and first hand accounts make for some fascinating reading.

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Katie′s #CBR5 Review #17: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Title: 1Q84
Author: Haruki Murakami
Source: library
Rating: 
Review Summary: Although the book was long and the ending was abrupt, I loved the writing and can’t wait to read more books by Murakami.

This book was so long and so strange that I’m not even sure where to start telling you what it was about, but I’ll do my best. The story involves two main characters and we alternate between their view points. Aomame is an assassin and Tengo is a writer. As the story progresses, they get pulled closer and closer together by events that initially seemed unrelated but which turn out to have a deep connection. The book involves questions of destiny and pre-determination, parallel worlds and some surprising magical elements.

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Katie′s #CBR5 Review #16: Salt by Mark Kurlansky

Title: Salt: A World History
Author: Mark Kurlansky
Source: library
Rating: 
Fun Fact: When mummies (preserved with salt) were moved into Cairo in the 1800’s, they were taxed as salted fish.
Review Summary: Mostly an engagingly written overview of history organized around salt, but with a few too many details of specific recipes and cod fishing.

Writing a world history organized by the way everything connects back to salt was a surprisingly brilliant idea. Because salt was a strategic concern in the organization of many countries and their wars, it’s possible to touch on many of the most interesting periods in history by talking about salt. This could very easily have led to a disorganized book, but each chapter focused on a specific country and the book generally moves forward in time. Together, that was enough to give the book a cohesive feel.

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