Monday, December 29, 2014

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (2014)

Christmas is a stressful, tension-filled time of year for me. I hate the crowds, I hate all the socialising I have to do and I hate the pressure that comes with the compulsory annual gift-giving to people you only speak to five times a year. That said, once the horror of Christmas passes, then the nicest week of the year arrives - the time between Christmas and New Years. Lots of people are off work so the streets are empty. Everyone's all fed up with mass gatherings so nights out tend to only be with small groups (my favourite type of gatherings!). The weather's usually not too hot but also not too cold and the days are perfect for one of my favourite pastimes...reading a book! True to form, this year I have read two books in this week and they were both absolute crackers.

The first is the one I'm talking about today - So You've Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson (every time I type this I put in a "h". Why not John? Apologies in advance if I miss one in this piece). I'd heard of Ronson because of two of his previous books: The Men Who Stare at Goats (adapted into a fairly average film starring George Clooney) and The Psychopath Test: A  Journey Through the Madness Industry. While I liked the ideas of these books, I'd never actually got around to reading them and (honestly) I probably wouldn't have ever read a Ronson book unless prompted, which I was this year when I received his most recent one. It is an interesting book and a great holiday read - not too heavy but not too fluffy either. Let me explain.

In 2012, Jon Ronson's online identity was kind of stolen when a bunch of academics created a bot on twitter (@Jon_Ronson) that tweeted like someone who was a crazy, fusion-food dildo-owning inspired version of Jon. His friends started following that account and Ronson got increasingly upset by it. In an filmed interview with the academics, he pleaded with them to take down the bot. They refused. The interview that was later uploaded to YouTube and the comments vociferously, even violently, condemned the academics' actions. Effectively, the internet shamed them into discontinuing their work and discontinuing the bot; they took down @Jon_Ronson soon after. Ronson was pleased to be part of what he saw as right being done (as he says, "Strangers all over the world had united to tell me I was right.) He then noticed that what happened to him was part of a wave of public shamings: the author of a homophobic Daily Mail article was punished; a fitness company was forced to change their policy when they were shamed after refusing to let an unemployed couple cancel their gym membership. Ronson hypothesised that, after a lull of 180 years, we were at the start of a great renaissance of public shaming. He vowed to investigate the next public modern shaming, to "investigate it close up and chronicle how efficient it was in righting wrongs."

This book recounts that journey and the answer is both not very and very very good. Ronson looks at examples like Jonah Lehrer, who I wasn't aware of but who had been very publicly shamed for self-plagiarism and using fake quotes in his books. While it's possible to argue that Lehrer was justly exposed for years worth of deceitful behaviour, Ronson also looks at other situations where an off-colour or inappropriate joke was (rightly) deemed to be offensive but where the public shaming was vicious and almost destroyed the lives of those who were shamed (examples include Justine Sacco, who sent off a racist tweet before getting on an eight-hour flight, only to be met at her destination by someone to escort of her off the plane, her tweet having caused a really disturbing Twitter frenzy of people all around the world waiting for her flight to land to see her publicly berated, and Linsey Stone, who was fired after posting a photo on Facebook of her mock-disrespecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier). While Ronson notes that yes, their actions were inappropriate, the result of the shaming was catastrophic; at the time of writing the book Sacco is still unemployed and Stone was unable to leave her house for a year.

Public shamings were phased out not, as Ronson assumes, because people were moving from towns to the city, but they were deemed too brutal to continue. After reading about the effects of public shamings today, I, like Ronson, will not participate in one again. This was a very interesting book: 4 stars.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Us by David Nicholls (2014)

The narrator of Us is Douglas Peterson, a bioscientist who is woken in the middle of the night by his wife, Connie, telling him she thinks she would like to separate once their 17-year-old son, Albie, leaves for university. Douglas loves Connie, deeply and sincerely, and is unable to cope with that news. He says: "I found the idea of life without her quite unthinkable, unthinkable in the truest sense; I could not picture a future without her by my side" (p379). However, before she leaves Connie and Douglas plan on going on a Grand Tour with Albie, travelling around continental Europe by train. Douglas has a vague plan to use the tour to convince Connie not to leave - he's not sure how but he is convinced he can do it. As the family begin their journey, events in the current day are interspersed with flashbacks recounting the story of Connie and Douglas from his point of view, from the night they met through to the current day.

Us was written by David Nicholls, who wrote the phenomenally successful One Day, which I enjoyed very much. Us, well, not so much. David Nicholls is a very entertaining writer so this book is is incredibly readable - a great beach read, really - but I could not shake off the feeling while I was reading it that this book is just unneccessary. I mean, does the world really need yet another 400 pages of a white middle-aged middle-class male explaining just how misunderstood he is? Surely we, as a reading and writing public, can put a moratorium on that storyline for like 10 years until the memory of all of the other books where a white middle-aged middle-class male complains about being unappreciated fade a little? These men in literature are just so whiny all the time. I mean, after reading 400 pages of Douglas' voice I wasn't surprised Connie was planning on leaving him - I was surprised she'd stayed with him in the first place.

It was quite jarring to read Us immediately following The Rabbit Back Literature Society. For days after finishing the latter I was still turning moments of the story over in my head; reading reviews and thinking about the ideas it raised. I finished Us about 10 hours ago and it's already hard to recall any of the key moments other than the names of the Petersons and that Douglas had an irritating personality. Us is an okay read - unexciting, unnecessary, written well. Three stars.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (2014)

The Rabbit Back Literature Society opens with a startled reader being "first surprised, then shocked" when in an essay on Dostoyevsky the criminal Raskolnikov is shot by the hooker with the heart of gold, Sonya. The reader in question is Ella Amanda Milana, who was "twenty-six years old and the possessor of a pair of beautifully curving lips and a pair of defective ovaries, among other parts." Ella has recently returned to her parents' home in Rabbit Back and is working as a substitute language and literature teacher at the local high school. Ella asks the student author of the essay why he made up a different ending and he shows her his copy of the book, borrowed from the Rabbit Back Library, which ends just as he describes. Ella takes the book back to the library and sets of a chain of unexpected, surprising events.

Rabbit Back is an unusual town. It is home to the famous children's author Laura White. It is also a place steeped in mysticism; where goblins, elves and forest nymphs are erected in statue-form around the town and a common household gift. In Rabbit Back, you can get your garden mythologically mapped to find out what magical creatures exactly live there and how best to deal with them. Many years ago, Laura White began the titular literature society, taking nine children from the local school and teaching them how to be writers.  Each of these children became authors themselves but Laura White is still looking for the society's 10th member. After reading a story of Ella's in the Rabbit Track's literary section (entitled "Ten" in reference to the literature society), Ella is invited to join the group but, on the night when she was to be formally inducted into the group, Laura White vanishes in a sudden snowstorm, never to be heard of again. Ella then begins to investigate White, using  The Game - a sadomasochistic technique where drugs and pain are used to obtain the very truth - to discover different literature society member's views of Laura White. In the process she demonstrates how damaged the writers were by their training and discovers many strange and unusual things.

I feel I am not capturing the book very well! On its surface, The Rabbit Back Literature Society has a fast and involving plot that kept me compulsively turning pages. There were at least two nights where I fell asleep while reading the book, I was so unwilling to put it down! But beyond the plot, there is so much to ponder in this very entertaining read. It feels a lot like a fairy tale. I'm not sure how much of that is due to its Finnish literary traditions (it was translated by Lola Rogers) but it's the kind of book that you keep thinking about for days afterward, turning different bits over in your brain. I really enjoyed reading it. I am looking forward to reading more from this author. Four and a half stars.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Tucci Table by Stanley Tucci (2014)

My love of celebrity cookbooks is well documented. I read every one I can get my hands on but very few of them make it past the reading stage. For example, I love Clueless as much as the next girl raised in the 1990s but Alicia Silverstone is completely cookoo and her earnest, heartfelt cookbook is too. 

Not so the latest Stanley Tucci cookbook, The Tucci Table. Basically, after the passing of his first wife, Stanley and his new wife Felicity Blunt worked to recreate some of the Tucci family's favourite meals, as a way for Tucci to both remember his old love and celebrate his new one.

Lovely, right? This whole book is a delight. As well as the charming story of its inception, there are the vital elements in the book that turn it from a cookbook to a celebrity cookbook: recipes scattered throughout from various famous friends, like the chicken noodle soup that sister-in-law Emily (Blunt) cooked for her husband John (Krasinski); anecdotes from his films (he learned to cook a frittata from chef Gianni Scappin because he needed to do it for a scene in Big Night) and lots of photos of the celebrity in question cooking various foodstuffs.

Now, as fun and engaging as the celebrity stuff is, at the end of the day this is a cookbook. As I would expect from the divine Mr T, the food in the book is very very good. It's not revolutionary but each of the recipes is clearly explained, well photographed and the kind of food that is affordable, easy to cook and tastes good. There's also a ton of vegetarian recipes and some good basic salads that been added into regular rotation at my house.

 This is Stanley's marinara sauce (made with Italian tomatoes but not the San Marzana tomatoes specified; I am not a movie star). Delicious, easy and can also be used for...

a pizza sauce for Stanley's mother pizza. Again, easy, cheap and delicious (although I would add more cheese; again, I am not a movie star and do not need to watch my figure).

Please note: I am obviously not a food blogger! I do not know why my food photos always look so terrible and I'm usually to hungry to hang about taking a bunch of shots. Trust me, the food was very tasty and will definitely be made again!

I would recommend The Tucci Table as a cookbook alone but as a celebrity cookbook, it really takes the cake (or serves up the pasta, if you will).

As Nicole Cliff of the Toast said of his first cookbook:

If Stanley Tucci put together a book about repairing vacuum cleaners, I would buy it and start showing up at strangers’ houses to break and then fix their vacuum cleaners. It’s also a lovely, lovely cookbook of family standards, mostly Italian in nature, and every page of it made me think of THE GREATEST FILM EVER MADE: Big Night

Absolutely yes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Only in New York by Lily Brett (2014)

A few years ago, I went to a session at the Wheeler Centre where Lily Brett was reading from her book Lola Bensky. She was wonderful – funny, clever, entertaining – and every since then I have had a massive girl crush on Lily Brett. I downloaded her latest, Only in New York, as soon as I found out about its existence but waited until last week to read it. The anticipation of the pleasure it was going to bring me was almost as pleasurable as reading the book itself…but not quite!

In Only in New York, Brett shares a series of vignettes about her life in New York: the walks she takes, the people she meets and the places she visits and loves. In the process, Brett skillfully weaves in the New York of the past, the Melbourne of her childhood and the Poland of her Jewish parents. She discusses issue of great tragedy and great humour, often in the same vignette, and through her featherlight touch the Holocaust is given a her own individual perspective as one of the first babies born to not one but two Holocaust survivors.
This description makes the book sound sad but it is in fact very funny; her wry observations identify the basic humour of humanity and the particular humanity of the type of events that happen only in New York.

She mentioned the book reading I went to in her book, which I think means we are now best friends. Only in New York is a lovely book, four stars.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Amnesia by Peter Carey (2014)

Amnesia is the latest novel from the great Australian author Peter Carey. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Carey but I was intrigued by the premise of this novel – a young Australian woman releases a computer virus that frees prisoners all over the world, making her “America’s public enemy number one”. I was quietly excited when I was allowed to access an advance copy on Netgalley.

The novel opens with journalist Felix Moore being convicted of defamation. Immediately after being sentenced, Felix and his grotesquely obese benefactor (this is often repeated: Amnesia is very concerned when its characters gain weight), the wealthy criminal property developer Woody “Wodonga” Townes, repair to the pub to get drunk, before going home and accidentally drunkenly burning his house down. At the same time as Felix’s courtroom downfall is occurring, a virus that opened prisons around the world, freeing political prisoners and hardened violent criminals alike was released by a hacker called Angel, who turns out to be Melbourne-born Gaby Baillieux, daughter of Felix’s fellow Monash alum Celine Baillieux. Gaby is caught by the police then bailed out by Wodonga, who also has a past with Celine. Drunk, destitute and desperate (always so very drunk!), Felix is hired by Wodonga to write a book that portrays Gaby as a hero so that she won’t be deported by the Americans, who Felix are convinced are behind every major event in Australian politics. This is important, because Felix’s firm and fervent conviction that the CIA were behind the events of 1975 that have shaped so much of Australia’s politics ever since dominates the book and motivates Felix’s desperate desire to tell the truth. Part I is a first-person account of events from Felix’s point of view, while Part II’s narration shifts a lot, moving between a third person recounting of Felix’s actions and Gaby and Celine’s recorded first-person account that is reported by Felix.

Peter Carey is the perfect author if a recently returned traveller wants to feel like they have arrived home. His language evocatively captures the essence of Australia, from the truth about how those in cities understand the rich bushland that surrounds their urban environments to references to the annual (very dangerous!) magpie swooping season. The book was at its best and most enjoyable when it placed Felix within these surroundings, taking us on a journey from the Battle of Brisbane in World War II Queensland to the suburban Melbourne of ‘90s via the harsh sundrenched and muddy environs of the first class of Monash University (it’s still a terrible-looking campus and one of the windiest places in Melbourne but markedly less muddy than Carey describes it).

If it had stayed just as that, it would have been a great book. But, the central concern that drives the plot is an investigation of Gaby and that aspect of the book fails miserably. I just did not for one second buy Gaby’s character. Even understanding that the “first person” narration of Gaby’s is filtered through Felix, there is no teenage girl in the world who speaks likes that. It was like a historical fiction that had been researched extensively with the items all correctly identified but the idiom just slightly off. It’s such a pity, because all the other characters were so richly drawn that the falsity of Gaby stands out clearly. It kind of feels like a book that was started with one idea but then ended at a place the author did not expected it to go but wasn’t that fussed about.

I still enjoyed the book and I will revisit Part I whenever I feel the need to immerse myself in lovely Australian language. The second part, not so much. Three stars.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Woman Who Stole my Life by Marian Keyes (2014)

Marian Keyes is often considered a chicklit author. Her covers are invariably released in shades of pastel, pink and purple with the title and author name written in friendly, glittery or metallic letters. This bright and breezy presentation belies the content of her books which, despite their engaging and often hiliarous content, deal with serious issue such as grief (Is There Anybody Out There?), domestic violence (This Charming Man), depression (The Mystery of Mercy Close) and alcoholism (Rachel’s Holiday). She is a great writer and deservedly one of Ireland’s most success authors.

Her newest novel, The Woman Who Stole My Life, tells the story of Stella Sweeney. Stella is 41 and one-quarter years old, of average height, and has just arrived back in Dublin in disgrace after having achieved great success (doing what, we don’t know). Her ex-husband Ryan has suddenly found karma and is giving away all of his worldly possessions in the belief that because of this good deed, the universe will provide for him. Stella, however, does not believe in karma. She says:

Once upon a time, something very bad happened to me. As a direct result of that very bad thing, something very, very good happened. I was a big believer in karma at that point. Then another bad thing. I am currently due an upswing in my karma cycle, but it doesn’t seem to happening. Frankly, I’ve had it with karma.

Telling the story largely through flashback, we find out that Stella’s “very bad” thing was getting Guillian-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune condition that caused Stella to become fully paralaysed, only able to move her eyelids. With her neurologist, Mannix Taylor, Stella is able to devise a system where she can communicate by blinking, and she and Mannix form an unusual and unorthodox relationship.

I felt that The Woman Who Stole my Life is the most grown-up Keyes book I’ve read. Stella and her best friend Jo are both divorced and dealing with the fallout from their relationship breakups on their family life and finances. Stella’s fabulous sister Karen has two small children and a business to run. Because of this, Woman has much less of the female/family bonding and humour that characterise her previous novels. I missed it but it makes this book more realistic, because as we get older our priorities do change. This realism came at the cost of some of the richness of the secondary characters – they were perhaps a bit more one-dimensional than I have become used to. However, Stella is lovely and likeable and I very much enjoyed her narrative voice.

In conclusion, this is not my favourite Marian Keyes novel (that honour remains with Sushi for Beginners) but it’s a great read and a lot of fun. Three and a half stars.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A brief literary tour of a small part of the UK

I have just arrived home from a whirlwind trip to the UK. Although my purpose was study (and I did get a lot of important research done!) I also managed to fit in a bunch of lovely bookish things.

On my first day at the research library, there just happened to be a Richard Ayoade screening nearby. Sam quickly ducked into the BFI bookshop and grabbed a copy of Ayoade on Ayoade and we were one of the last to get our book signed.

I am so heavily jetlagged in that photo I can hardly keep my eyes open! I think I was asleep about 45 minutes after that photo was taken.

I was dragged along to Stratford-upon-Avon against my will to see all of the Shakespeare stuff. I mean, I get why he's so important and acknowledge the impact he has had on the entire Western world but still...I just don't find him that interesting (please don't tell my university in case they take back my English degree!). I did get this lovely shot in his garden, though, so that's one thing.

Next was Chatsworth House.

This is literary for two reasons. It is the adopted ancestral home of the recently passed away Deb Mitford, the youngest of the wonderful Mitford sisters. Deb was responsible for saving Chatsworth by opening it up to the public. 

It is also the house upon which Jane Austen based Pemberly in Pride and Prejudice.

The house was truly spectacular and filled with remarkable treasures...

..and had wonderful gardens and pastures filled with sheep. I would marry Mr Darcy after seeing that house!

The gift shop was selling this gem, which I didn't buy then but am absolutely getting for my mother for Christmas.

On what proved to be the coldest and wet day of my entire trip (and that's saying something because I got rained on 10 out of the 12 days I was there), we stopped at Haworth, the home of the Brontë sisters. It seemed to be a gorgeous town but the weather was just too miserable to do any exploring. I did of course stop by the Parsonage, which was excellent.

Standing in the room where Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights had been written was an odd feeling. I could have stayed there for hours.

The final stop was the Oxford Bar, the hangout of Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus. It is a tiny, crowded bar filled with locals and we stood out like a sore thumb. I didn't care though! It was oddly fun to inhabit the same space as a fictional character. I get the Magnolia Bakery thing now.

If I'd had more time (and money - some of these things are very expensive! Visiting Shakespeare's house costs AU$60 per person) I'd have seen more but I really enjoyed every thing I did. I now want to go back and read every Brontë, every Austen and the early Rankin novels all over again :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran (2014)

How to Build a Girl is the first novel from feminist extraordinaire Caitlin Moran. I have written before how much I loved loved loved her first book, How to be a Woman. I finished it and immediately ordered four copies to give to other women so they could understand and appreciate the pleasure that was intelligently written well-argued unapologetic feminism. It is a great book and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.

As we discovered in How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran grew up in poverty in an industrial town, Wolverhampton, that suffered a sharp decline in the Thatcher years. With a weight problem, a father on disability benefits and a mother whose full-time occupation was looking after a brood of children, her childhood was not easy. Moran left school and home young and became a music journalist and, from there, the success that she is today. The protagonist of How to Build a Girl is Johanna Morrigan, a plump girl who lives in Wolverhampton, an industrial town that suffered a sharp decline in the Thatcher years. With a weight problem, a father on disability benefits and a mother whose full-time occupation was looking after a brood of children, Johanna's life was not easy. The novel follows her path to adulthood, including leaving school young to become a music journalist.

The duplication of material was one of the two major issues I had with the novel. Although the novel opens with a note where Moran clearly states the book is fictional: "But Johanna is not me. Her family, colleagues, the people she meets and her experiences are not my family, my colleagues, the people I met or my experiences. This is a novel and it is all fictitious.", a lot of the story is familiar from How to be a Woman.  I imagine, given the similarities in the titles, there was a conscious decision to almost "pair" the two titles. However, the crossover in material made reading the book a bit repetitious, like I was rereading a story instead of discovering it for the first time. I found this a bit irritating, because if I'd wanted to reread How to be a Woman, I could have just picked up the copy sitting on the shelf in my living room.

The second issue I had with the book was that I just couldn't figure out who its audience was. It opens with Johanna deciding that she needs to die - not literally, but figuratively, so she can reinvent herself as a new person who can save her family from a life of poverty. I get this - part of being a teenager is trying on new identities until you find one that fits; in which you can feel comfortable and yourself. In this section, her family is close and loving and a key component of her life. But then, once Johanna has successfully transformed herself into music columnist, she then becomes a lady sex explorer and all of a sudden can stay out all night without her previously close family remarking upon it or making a big deal. That did not feel real to me at all. I also found it really hard to keep track of time in the novel - near the end, it's revealed that Johanna has been a music journalist for two years, but before then time isn't marked in any way - the narrative is just a series of events without any way to mark the passage of time, like birthday parties or Christmas. Until I read that sentence, I didn't know if she'd been writing for two months or several years. There are also some strange moments where the point of view shifts to a woman 20 years in the future looking back on their youth, which sits really oddly with the first-person point-of-view of 16 (or 17 or 18)-year-old Johanna. The language is sexually explicit enough that it is excluded from the YA market but who else is that interested in coming of age stories about teenage girls? (Although, how awesome is it that this is not about the coming of age of a middle-class white man!! As a society we have reached peak white man coming of age stories, please stop writing them, white middle-class men.)

Those (major) quibbles aside, there is a lot to like about this book. Moran is a very funny writer and is completely apologetic about bring up all of the stuff that teenagers really think about, like masturbation and first kisses and the powerlessness that comes with being too young to really do anything to fix any of the problems you see around you. Her descriptions of the everyday poverty she lived in were really sad and an indictment of a first-world wealthy country who should be doing better for their families in need. I was entertained (if slightly confused) throughout the whole book, which is really super important. I think this book was one draft and one change-of-career-for-the-protagonist away from being a really excellent novel - three stars.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014)

Big Little Lies is the latest book from Australian author Liane Moriarty and it has been a huge success. As all the publicity material will tell you, it's been on the #1 New York Times' bestseller and the rights of the film have been optioned by Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Since, as I recently admitted, I cannot resist a much-talked about bestseller, I immediately borrowed the book from the library and started reading right away.

And kept on reading, all day long, because this book is very good. The plot centres around three women who all have their children in the same local primary school. Madeline, although happily remarried, is still bitter about her previous divorce, which is not helped by the fact that the daughter she has with her second husband is in the same year level as the child her ex-husband has had with his new wife. Celeste is beautiful and rich but, while she seems to have everything she wants, is not quite right or happy in an oddly indiscernable way. Jane, who is much younger than the other two, is a single mother of a young boy who was fathered in mysterious circumstances. The three form an unlikely but strong friendship and, when Jane's son is accused of bullying, the primary school is split, often positioning the three women against the rest of the school body.

Although that description sounds serious, the book is in fact very amusing. The interaction between the primary school teacher and Jane is hilarious and I really empathised with Madeline's deliberate and persistent unwillingless to just let the past go. The relationships between the groups of parents ring true (PTA committees, dramas about birthday party invites and drunken bookclubs - all things I have been involved in!) and I really enjoyed the presentation of the subtleties of the political games groups of people who are forced together by circumstance engage in.

The one thing I am a little bit on the fence is is the portrayal of domestic violence. Just last week I had someone tell me that domestic abuse doesn't happen in their area because it's a nice wealthy suburb. By including domestic violence in this book, Moriarty does draw attention to the fact that domestic violence is not limited to not-"nice", poor people. This is very important! However, its description at the start of the book felt a bit fetishistic to me. This is completely fixed by the end of the book so perhaps I am being sensitive but I was definitely uncomfortable in the first 100 or so pages.

That said, I would unhesitatingly recommend this book. It is simply a very enjoyable, very fun read.

With each passing book, Liane Moriarty is becoming a better writer. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. Four stars.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bring Your Lunch: Quick and Tasty Wallet-Friendly Lunches for Grown-ups by Califia Suntree (2014)

All my life I have been a dedicated brown bagger. In part, this is because I hate the packaging and single-use items involved in buying lunch, but also because I  know that if I take my own food, I can control how healthy it is and it is definitely much cheaper to take your own lunch. However, I generally only take leftovers and sandwiches and, admittedly, it can get really boring real fast. Sometimes it's hard to eat the same leftovers three days in a row even knowing it's healthier, cheaper and more ecologically friendly. I have borrowed cookbooks that specifically deal with lunch foods but they tend to be either aimed at kids and feature lots of kids food or really meat heavy and totally impractical for days when I am shlepping around campus without access to a fridge or a microwave. So, when I saw this title on Netgalley, I was intrigued by the "for Grown-ups" specified in the title but, due to past experience, not overly hopeful about its impact on my life.

I am not sorry to say I was completely wrong. This cookbook is fantastic! There's an extensive opening section on the best ways to store and transport lunch food that I read including stuff I didn't know existed (there are sandwich-shaped glass containers durable enough to carry around with you!) as well as tips for reusing and upcycling stuff you have already. There's a huge variety in the recipes and they're very adaptable, which is great because it means I can use what I have rather than buy items that I use once or twice but then sit in the fridge or pantry staring balefully at me until I eventually throw them out. It's veg-friendly, with a strong focus placed on vegetable-based recipes, which is good even for dedicated omnivores. The best feature of the book, however, is in its descriptions of how to use the pantry and freezer to provide nutritious, delicious lunches. I have already made the Sweet Potato and Corn Empanadas and I can verify that they were delicious from the fridge the day following being made and just as good from the freezer three days later. The lunch mezze idea is honestly brilliant (how did I not think of that already?) and I am making the frozen burritos and pickled veggies over the weekend.

The final aspect of this book that really sold me was its functionality as an ebook. There are links everywhere to relevant sections which make it really easy to navigate the text. While I have adopted electronic fiction without open arms, I have always been a hardcopy girl for my recipe books. I will definitely rethink that from now on after seeing how well hyperlinks can work with this kind of material.

My only quibble with the book is that the measurements are imperial rather than metrics (Americans, metric really is the best! Come and join the rest of the world...). I therefore give this book five almost unqualified stars. I strongly recommend it to everyone. I just need to figure out how to gift an ebook and, once I do, everyone I know will be getting this for Christmas.