Book Review – The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

The City Bake’rs Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

Summary

When Olivia Rawlings—pastry chef extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she escapes to the most comforting place she can think of—the idyllic town of Guthrie, Vermont, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend Hannah. But the getaway turns into something more lasting when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, offers Livvy a job. Broke and knowing that her days at the club are numbered, Livvy accepts.

Livvy moves with her larger-than-life, uberenthusiastic dog, Salty, into a sugarhouse on the inn’s property and begins creating her mouthwatering desserts for the residents of Guthrie. She soon uncovers the real reason she has been hired—to help Margaret reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest.

With the joys of a fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Livvy soon finds herself immersed in small town life. And when she meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from Seattle to tend his ailing father, Livvy  comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought.

But then another new arrival takes the community by surprise, and Livvy must decide whether to do what she does best and flee—or stay and finally discover what it means to belong. Olivia Rawlings may finally find out that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.

Comments

The City Bakers Guide to Country Living is a window into the life of a small town in North East USA, Livvy, an accomplished pastry chef escapes to Guthrie; Vermont and her high school friend Hannah, after causing a fire during a high profile event at her Boston workplace.

This story of friendship, love, compassion, rivalry and acceptance draws you in with Louise Miller’s great descriptive writing. I laughed out loud in parts. She brought alive the landscape and traditions of the area.

As an ex-caterer I was right there in the kitchen; it was so real. A compelling easy read!

Tina, Dundas Readers 8/10

June Wrap Up: Book Clubs & Reading Groups

City of Parramatta Libraries, Book Clubs and Reading Groups seem to grow each month; in June we welcomed another Book Club into our Club’s.

Before June comes to end I find myself already preparing July’s Book Club and Reading Groups Kits; with twenty seven kits already to for July!

The popular title and author this month was Jane Harper, with two groups reading The Lost Man and other reading Force of Nature. In fact Jane seems to re-appear each month on the list of book club reads. I can understand why too. I loved both The Dry and The Lost Man.

If you are also a Jane Harper fan then you might like to check out her website for more information and updates on the up-coming film version of The Dry; starring the talented Eric Banner as Aaron Falk!

As always you can read our Book Club and Reading Groups reviews on Parra Reads. Just search the Categories Book Club Kits and Book Reviews.

Happy Reading!

Jody

Book Review: The Wife Drought

The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb

Book Summary

‘I need a wife’

It’s a common joke among women juggling work and family. But it’s not actually a joke. Having a spouse who takes care of things at home is a Godsend on the domestic front. It’s a potent economic asset on the work front. And it’s an advantage enjoyed – even in our modern society – by vastly more men than women. 

Working women are in an advanced, sustained, and chronically under-reported state of wife drought, and there is no sign of rain.

But why is the work-and-family debate always about women? Why don’t men get the same flexibility that women do? In our fixation on the barriers that face women on the way into the workplace, do we forget about the barriers that – for men – still block the exits? 

The Wife Drought is about women, men, family and work. Written in Annabel Crabb’s inimitable style, it’s full of candid and funny stories from the author’s work in and around politics and the media, historical nuggets about the role of ‘The Wife’ in Australia, and intriguing research about the attitudes that pulse beneath the surface of egalitarian Australia.

Crabb’s call is for a ceasefire in the gender wars. Rather than a shout of rage, The Wife Drought is the thoughtful, engaging catalyst for a conversation that’s long overdue. 

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Book Review: Working Class Boy

Working Class Boy

Working Class Boy

Jimmy Barnes

Book Summary

The time I have spent writing this book has caused me a lot of pain. Sometimes because of what I have remembered about my childhood and sometimes because of what I couldn’t remember. It is funny how your mind blocks things out when those things can hurt you. There are a lot of things I wish I didn’t remember…

A household name, an Australian rock icon, the elder statesman of Ozrock – there isn’t an accolade or cliche that doesn’t apply to Jimmy Barnes. But long before Cold Chisel and Barnesy, long before the tall tales of success and excess, there was the true story of James Dixon Swan – a working class boy whose family made the journey from Scotland to Australia in search of a better life.

Working Class Boy is a powerful reflection on a traumatic and violent childhood, which fuelled the excess and recklessness that would define, but almost destroy, the rock’n’roll legend. This is the story of how James Swan became Jimmy Barnes. It is a memoir burning with the frustration and frenetic energy of teenage sex, drugs, violence and ambition for more than what you have.

Raw, gritty, compassionate, surprising and darkly funny – Jimmy Barnes’s childhood memoir is at once the story of migrant dreams fulfilled and dashed. Arriving in Australia in the Summer of 1962, things went from bad to worse for the Swan family – Dot, Jim and their six kids. The scramble to manage in the tough northern suburbs of Adelaide in the 60s would take its toll on the Swans as dwindling money, too much alcohol, and fraying tempers gave way to violence and despair. This is the story a family’s collapse, but also a young boy’s dream to escape the misery of the suburbs with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join a rock’n’roll band and get out of town for good.

Comments

This Book gives the reader a warts and all insight into the lives of the poor and underprivileged in our country and the resilience of those like Jimmy Barnes who overcome their circumstances. This could be a depressing read but Jimmy’s sense of humour shines through.

After several attempts to document his early life as a ten pound Pom who arrived in Elizabeth in South Australia as a pre-schooler, until he left home at seventeen, he finally managed to tell his amazing story.

This is more than an autobiography; for Jimmy it was a therapeutic journey through very hard times. He has included several pages of contact details for help and support organisations to encourage those who may need help.

Shocking but realistic true portrait of growing up in Glasgow, amazing survival & black humour!

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Dundas Readers – 6/10

Book Review One Life My Mother’s Story by Kate Grenville

One Life: My Mother’s Story 

Kate Grenville

Nance was a week short of her sixth birthday when she and Frank were roused out of bed in the dark and lifted into the buggy, squashed in with bedding, the cooking pots rattling around in the back, and her mother shouting back towards the house: Goodbye, Rothsay, I hope I never see you again!

When Kate Grenville’s mother died she left behind many fragments of memoir. These were the starting point for One Life, the story of a woman whose life spanned a century of tumult and change. In many ways Nance’s story echoes that of many mothers and grandmothers, for whom the spectacular shifts of the twentieth century offered a path to new freedoms and choices. In other ways Nance was exceptional. In an era when women were expected to have no ambitions beyond the domestic, she ran successful businesses as a registered pharmacist, laid the bricks for the family home, and discovered her husband’s secret life as a revolutionary.

One Life is an act of great imaginative sympathy, a daughter’s intimate account of the patterns in her mother’s life. It is a deeply moving homage by one of Australia’s finest writers.

Comments

We enjoyed most of this story, but there was a lot of repetition about some aspects, such as her life as an apprentice at the shop, family issues, which boy to pursue and some of the politics.

We thought the writing style was a bit unsophisticated but think that Kate Grenville was trying to express things using her mother’s voice and expressions since it was her mother’s story.

The second half of the book dragged a bit and we couldn’t understand her reaction on finding out about her husband’s affair since she’d had one herself with their good friend.

It showed how hard it was for women in unhappy marriages to leave when they had children and no way of supporting themselves.

Overall, we thought it showed how far the role of women has come in the workforce. We had never considered the challenges faced around childcare in a time when there was nothing established outside family help. She certainly had courage setting up her businesses and helping to build the house. Nance was an impressive woman for her time.

Wishing readers happy summer reading, from the Dundas Readers.

Group Rating 7/10