Book Review: Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker

Title: Cork Dork
Author: Bianca Bosker
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback: 352 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Like many of us, tech reporter Bianca Bosker saw wine as a way to unwind at the end of a long day, or a nice thing to have with dinner and that was about it. Until she stumbled on an alternate universe where taste reigned supreme, a world in which people could, after a single sip of wine, identify the grape it was made from, in what year, and where it was produced down to the exact location, within acres. Where she tasted wine, these people detected not only complex flavor profiles, but entire histories and geographies. Astounded by their fanatical dedication and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, Bosker abandoned her screen-centric life and set out to discover what drove their obsession, and whether she, too, could become a cork dork.

Thus begins a year and a half long adventure that takes the reader inside elite tasting groups, exclusive New York City restaurants, a California winery that manipulates the flavor of its bottles with ingredients like Mega Purple, and even a neuroscientist s fMRI machine as Bosker attempts to answer the most nagging question of all: what s the big deal about wine? Funny, counterintuitive, and compulsively readable, Cork Dork illuminates not only the complex web of wine production and consumption, but how tasting better can change our brains and help us live better.

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*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review through NetGalley.*

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Andrew and I started learning more about wine when we first read The Judgment of Paris by George M. Taber. Once we started earning money from having jobs (rather than being rather poor full-time students), wine became a favorite drink of ours to start off and end our weekends. We were fascinated with the history of winemaking and the culture that surrounds it. We’ve lately taken our drinking a step further and joined a wine club where we very rarely drink the same bottle twice — we love trying new wines, seeing what they pair with, and comparing them to other wines we’ve had. So, when I saw Cork Dork available on Netgalley, it seemed like the perfect fit.

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Book Review: Ann Veronica by HG Wells

Title: Ann Veronica
Author: HG Wells
Publisher: Penguin Books Limited
Paperback: 352 pages
Source: Own
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Twenty-one, passionate and headstrong, Ann Veronica Stanley is determined to live her own life. When her father forbids her attending a fashionable ball, she decides she has no choice but to leave her family home and make a fresh start in London. There, she finds a world of intellectuals, socialists and suffragettes — a place where, as a student in biology at Imperial College, she can be truly free. But when she meets the brilliant Capes, a married academic, and quickly falls in love, she soon finds that freedom comes at a price.

A fascinating description of the women’s suffrage movement, Ann Veronica offers an optimistic depiction of one woman’s sexual awakening and search for independence.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I had serious doubts about this book when I first started it, not only is it not science fiction, but a ROMANCE, from HG Wells? Yeah, okay. I was thinking it was going to be ridiculous, but once I started reading it, I realized it was completely different from what I had first thought — it’s an early book about feminism. And you know what? It’s done rather splendidly.

Ann Veronica is the youngest of a fairly well-to-do family. She’s not your typical turn-of-the-20th-century girl — she studies biology at a college (with her father’s permission) and enjoys talking about her intellectual interests with others. Her close friends are burgeoning suffragists, so she often joins their discussions about how women aren’t free to do what they want and how they’re caged up in society because men keep them imprisoned, basically. So, when her father literally locks her in her bedroom to prevent her from going to a ball, she runs away to the city to make it on her own. She quickly finds out that there’s not a great way for women to make a lot of money, and renting out an apartment in London actually costs quite a lot. Basically, she has to face harder truths than she realized were out there and more fully understands the plight of women because of her decision to not live under her father’s roof.

What I love about this story is how it covers everything and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. It gives a clear, honest look at exactly what the situation of women was for that time period — hardly any job prospects (and any available were drudgery for pennies), no respect, and no vote. Their lives were at the mercy of the men in their lives and they weren’t taught anything about how to survive or live in the world. Ann Veronica even gets herself into a misunderstanding with a man and it’s sad how much that particular “misunderstanding” can still be seen in today’s world. They talk as if they’re friends, and they go out to lunch together as friends, and then he locks her in a room with him “to make love” because of course she had to know that they weren’t really friends and he wanted her, and deserved her after all that he’d given her. (Isn’t it creepy how familiar that sounds?) HG Wells does a tremendous job in outlining the various difficulties that women faced when they fought for equal rights and equal opportunities in London and really hits, if not all, then at least most of the points.

The first half was wonderful, but it does start to drag a bit as the book goes on. I think the first half of the book is perfect and it would have been 5 stars if it had continued in that vein, but then Ann Veronica falls in love and the whole story sort of starts to fall apart and get into themes that don’t make sense for where the book started. Alas. Basically, I would recommend this to anyone who has an interest in feminism, its roots, or even how it was viewed during this time. I was blown away by how insightful this story was and a little saddened by how true those themes remain. If not a great story, it’s interesting to see the thoughts and themes of feminism from a male author born in the 19th century.

Book Review: Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde

Title: Lost in a Good Book
Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: Penguin
Series: Thursday Next, Book 2
Paperback: 399 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The inventive, exuberant, and totally original literary fun that began with The Eyre Affair continues with Jasper Fforde’s magnificent second adventure starring the resourceful, fearless literary sleuth Thursday Next. When Landen, the love of her life, is eradicated by the corrupt multinational Goliath Corporation, Thursday must moonlight as a Prose Resource Operative of Jurisfiction, the police force inside books. She is apprenticed to the man-hating Miss Havisham from Dickens’s Great Expectations, who grudgingly shows Thursday the ropes. And she gains just enough skill to get herself in a real mess entering the pages of Poe’s “The Raven.” What she really wants is to get Landen back. But this latest mission is not without further complications. Along with jumping into the works of Kafka and Austen, and even Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, Thursday finds herself the target of a series of potentially lethal coincidences, the authenticator of a newly discovered play by the Bard himself, and the only one who can prevent an unidentifiable pink sludge from engulfing all life on Earth.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Is it just me, or did this series take a bit of a dark turn? Not that I’m complaining. I love dark stories, I’m just surprised at the change. This isn’t to say that the first book of the series, The Eyre Affair, didn’t have some dark elements — Acheron Hades is one of the most terrifying villains ever. However, Lost in a Good Book makes the problems a lot more personal for Thursday. I like that a lot. The stakes are raised, and this series is rapidly becoming more complicated, terrifying, and way more addicting.

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