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Archive for September, 2011

Hello Book Jam Readers. Just a quick note about format: we’ve decided on a new strategy here at the BookJam which is to post regular reviews written individually, without a podcast element. Our schedules are busy and don’t always allow us to come together to record but we still want to share a list of favorites with our subscribers. But don’t worry, we still plan to podcast periodically with special author interviews and with our trademark “Lisa Lisa” book discussions. As always, happy reading! And please feel free to send us feedback. Best, Lisa and Lisa 

Whew. Summer really flew by – and so did a bunch a great new titles. I just wish I’d had a chance to read them all. Alas, being only a mere mortal I managed a dozen or so, and below I’ve noted a few favorites. The overall theme to my picks seems to be “women adventuring,” whether it’s over the high seas to Egypt in 1861, or to India in 1928, or to start up a restaurant on a wing and a prayer in the late 1990’s.  -Lisa L C

Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton (2011). Books about food are always interesting to me but I think this memoir by one of America’s most respected female chefs transcends that genre. Hamilton holds a MFA in writing  and it shows. She sometimes left me breathless with her creative use of language, her turns of phrase, and well, her fluency. She’s led a fascinating life (heck, she’s only in her mid to late forties) which started with growing up in a crumbling castle in rural Pennsylvania where her parents threw an annual lamb roast party, to working as cook at a summer camp in the Berkshires, to marrying into an Italian family that led her to spend a month of every summer in the boot of that country learning from the natives. Of course, it’s more than food she’s writing about. It’s about struggling to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. It’s about learning how to create her own family, to figure out what happened in her family of origin, and how to manage a fantastic restaurant on top of it all. It’s delicious.

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger (2011). This short novel is very satisfying and fills the reader in on a little known piece of history. The story chronicles the voyage of real-life Lady Duff Gorden who’s forced to leave England in the 1860’s and travel to Egypt as a result of tuberculosis. It’s told from the perspective of her lady’s maid whose own story is also fascinating (love and intrigue included). Lady Gordon and her domestic servant travel in houseboats on the Nile and live in an ancient palace in Luxor. Author Pullinger researched her topic carefully and based it on a published book of Gordon’s letters  (see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Letters-Egypt-Lucie-Austin-Gordon/dp/0860684555) and it really brings that era, the sights, the sounds and women’s struggles vividly to life. I loved it.

East of the Sun by Julia Grigson (2009). I blindly picked up this book at a bus station shop because I’d temporarily run out of things to read and was on the road. I hadn’t heard anything about it but spent the next few days engrossed in England/India circa 1928. It’s historical fiction (and labelled as romance but it’s not cheesy – really!)  and I learned more about the generation of “Raj Orphans” (see our review of “Old Filth” by Jane Gardam) and about a group known as the “fishing fleet”, women who went over to India to find husbands (and much more).

Happy Reading. Lisa Cadow

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We recorded this episode of the Bookjam celebrating hardworking farmers and the bounty they bring to our communities way back in June. It still seems quite relevant post Labor Day considering the devastation that’s occurred at many valley farms in the wake of recent post-Irene flooding. Please consider a donation to help Vermont farmers recover from their losses.

Listen now to Farmers Markets

Summer’s amazing Farmer’s Markets provide an excellent excuse to read books about food and farming. We found, read and recommend three new books:

This Life is in Your Hands a memoir by Melissa Coleman.  Weeks after finishing, J Lisa C is still pondering the story contained in this memoir. It has so much, the trials and successes of building a life and a family, how failures shape you, an unbearable pain that comes with the loss of a child/sister, making peace with an upbringing and more.  Beyond the actual real life tale in this book, the author’s rendering of her childhood spent as neighbors to Helen and Scott Nearing (famous homesteaders and authors of  The Good Life) also raises questions about how to accomplish a life that remains true to your ideals, yet brings the least amount of harm to and the most amount of help for the people you love. Specifically, it deals with organic farming and lessening carbon footprints. Globally, this book just deals with life.

The Dirty Life: on farming, food and love by Kristin Kimball – A tale told by a former suburban and urban dweller who interviews and then falls for a man and his life in the country. Visual delights include a description of unloading a car full of Pennsylvania treats in the midst of Manhattan, their weekends in the country before they embark on their life together as husband and wife.  The memoir then does a fabulous job of juxtaposing the merging of her urban sensibilities with his desire to live only off the land.  As a bonus, because she is a food lover to the core – you want to sit and eat with them again and again.

Goat Song: A seasonal life, a short history of herding and the art of making cheese by Brad Kessler – beautiful prose and refelections about life with goats and the changes those four hoofed friends bring. Lisa LC likens his work to poetry.

Read these under a tree this summer or wait until winter when you need to think a bit about vegetables fresh from a garden, and find your own answers to the questions within each.

We hope you enjoy the bird song and russling leaves in this podcast. They are the sounds of summer and actually occurred during our recording session.  We certainly enjoyed the live visitors and recording from the porches of The Norwich Inn.

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