Foodie Friday:: Review of KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST


Title: Kitchens of the Great Midwest 
Author: J. Ryan Stradal
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books/Viking 
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
ISBN: 9780525429142
Number of Pages: 310
How I Got It: Netgalley
Format: Kindle
Goodreads Description:
When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience.

Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.
My Review:
This book received lots of praise from many of my book blogging friends when it released last summer. I had an ARC hanging around that I just couldn't get to. Then I decided to go through my NetGalley backlist to see if anything caught my attention. I thought "I'll give it a try and see if it catches my attention, if it doesn't do it in the first few pages, I'll move on." Well, based on the fact that I'm writing a review, it is obvious that I read the whole thing. I could probably talk for quite a while about this novel but I will focus on the main points that I loved. First of all, food. Of course I love foodie fiction but this one was different. The food topics and types ranged from beloved childhood favorites to conscious farming and from heirloom tomatoes to county fair bake-offs. The book's central character doesn't overpower the story, she is merely a touchpoint for a variety of other characters' stories. I may be a bit late to the game in regards to reading this release, but I am so glad I didn't miss it and I hope to see more books with this type of tangential storyline in the future.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Book Spotlight: Victoria by Daisy Goodwin



Title: Victoria 
Author: Daisy Goodwin
Publisher: St. Martin's 
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
ISBN: 9781250045461
Number of Pages: 352
Goodreads Description:
“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”
Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”
In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.
One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….
Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.

Publicist's Insight: 
Goodwin, author of the acclaimed novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter, was inspired to write Victoria after picking up a volume of the monarch’s diaries. “How handsome Albert looks in his white cashmere breeches,” teenage Queen Victoria wrote, “with nothing on underneath.” People often think of the queen as an aging, frumpy widow in black, but Goodwin was intrigued by the young woman she found in the dairies: a feisty personality, but also steadfast in her ideas and beliefs about being a ruler. In this magnificent novel, Daisy—also creator and writer of the upcoming PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria—shares the brilliantly imagined life of a young woman about to make her mark on her country…and the world.

Check out a look at the Victoria drama series airing on Masterpiece on PBS here and check out my review of Daisy Goodwin's previous release, The Fortune Hunter, here!

Review: A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan


Title: A Window Opens
Author: Elisabeth Egan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
ISBN: 9781501105432
Number of Pages: 384
How I Got It: NetGalley
Format: Kindle
Goodreads Description:
For fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?.
In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine, Elisabeth Egan, brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age.

Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.
Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

My Review:
I don't know whether I loved the fact that the main character had a "babysitter" who took care of the kids, cooked, etc. while she was working or hate it. I loved that it showed how impossible it is to be a mother who works outside the home and be able to take care of your kids...we can't be two places at once, right? I also hated it because having that sort of paid assistance isn't the case for most mothers who work outside the home. Plus I was downright pissed that her husband wouldn't step into the home caregiver role, given his situation. The snotty, young workers who change their mind and direction of the company daily is too real for most women returning to the workforce. I like having characters that make me feel something and Alice and her crew certainly did. I like unlikeable characters and this book had plenty.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***

Review: The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey


Title: The Real Liddy James
Author: Anne-Marie Casey
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: September 20th, 2016
ISBN: 9780399160226
Number of Pages: 336
How I Got It: from publicist
Format: hardback
Publicist's Description:
In a world full of “#girlbosses” who are all “leaning in” together, Anne-Marie Caseyoffers a glimpse into the demanding world of New York’s fast-paced career women while tackling the polarizing yet perennial question: Can women really have it all? Sharply written and deftly observed, THE REAL LIDDY JAMES was actually inspired by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” and the author Anne-Marie Casey has much to contribute to the controversial topic. Her writing is fresh, hitting the perfect balance between hilarious and heart-felt, and people are buzzing about it.
 
New York Times­-bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand raved, “The Real Liddy James had me stopping nearly every page to read paragraphs out loud to anyone who would listen. A true delight!” Her praise was echoed by Rosamund Lupton, “Wonderfully funny, brilliantly observed and completely addictive” and Adriana Trigiani, "Original, sharp, funny and timely, The Real Liddy James is a spectacular novel from Anne-Marie Casey, who understands the high wire act every working mother attempts in the circus of life.”
 
Here’s a quick take: Liddy James is forty-four, fit, and fabulous. One of New York's top divorce attorneys, a bestselling author, and a mother of two, she glides through the courtrooms and salons of the Manhattan elite with ease. Despite a devastating divorce from her first love, literature professor Peter James, Liddy, Peter and Peter's sympathetic new partner, Rose, have formed a modern family to raise Liddy and Peter's truculent teen and Liddy's adorable, if fatherless, six-year-old son. With her lonely and impoverished New Jersey childhood far behind her, to the outside world Liddy's life is perfect. Until it isn't.
My Review:
This jumped on my radar as soon as I saw it. I tried to request a copy and let's just say it was one of the longest, weirdest, and funniest go-rounds I have had in book blogging. Originally, the cover caught my eye (just like The Guineveres) and the topic always intrigues me, "working mothers." I liked that this novel wasn't the same old formula of the mother "having it all," then being overwhelmed and deciding that she's going to stay home with her kids (too martyr-y to me.) This story was great because we get an inside look at the lives of the people around "the working mother" to see how everything is really being juggled by multiple people, plus the sacrifices everyone is making in a complex (yet very amicable) family. I didn't really love the ending (but no spoilers!) so I can't say I would really recommend this book to anyone. However, if you want to know that you're not alone in your quest to pretty much be two places at once when you have a job outside the home and are a mother, this book had some good laughs. 

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***