Friday 31 May 2013

Armchair BEA: Non-Fiction

In the days before I was a blogger, I read more non-fiction than fiction.  My ratio must have been about 70% non-fiction to 30% fiction and I thought nothing of losing myself in a big, dense, history book for weeks at a time.  When I started blogging, I became exposed to lots and lots of fiction reviews and gradually my reading habits changed; I'm lucky if I get to 20% non-fiction now.  But I still enjoy non-fiction books, especially from the following categories:



  1.  Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser - Anything by Antonia Fraser is worth reading.  She writes excellent biographies of historical figures that are packed with research but still read like a narrative.  Marie Antoinette is my favourite of hers, and was the inspiration for the film.
  2. Lords of the Horizon by Jason Goodwin - I just love the Ottomans, and this is by far the best book on them I have read.  It's beautifully written and full of quirky little facts about the different Sultans.
  3. The State of Africa by Martin Meredith - African history after independence can be quite confusing, but this is an excellent overview of what happened in most of the major countries after the European powers left.  It's one I've read through once, but still keep dipping in and out of.

Biography / Memoirs:


  1. Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire - Dallaire was the UN commander in Rwanda at the time of the genocide.  Shake Hands with the Devil chronicles his attempts to raise awareness and stop the horror.  It's not easy reading, but it's a book that will stay with you.
  2. Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso - Again, this isn't easy reading.  Fragoso was groomed as a young girl and was the victim of a pedophile for many years.  Given the sensitive and sensational topic, Tiger, Tiger is honestly and bluntly written.
  3. My Life by Bill Clinton - I love political memoirs, and this is my favourite. I liked Obama's Dreams from the Father too, but Clinton's is a fuller account of his life plus his political experiences.



  1. In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah - A romantic, dreamy look at life in Morocco, based on the story-telling tradition of the country.  Will make you want to visit immediately!
  2. The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski - Kapuscinski is a Polish journalist and this book is about his experiences reporting from Africa.  The politics is interwoven with his awe and wonder at the many things he sees.
  3. Empires of the Indus by Alice Albinia - Albinia travels up the Indus river, from it's mouth in Pakistan  to the source in Tibet.  This one is packed full of interesting information.
Are you a non-fiction reader?  After writing this post, I definitely feel like I want to increase the amount of non-fiction I read.

Thursday 30 May 2013

Armchair BEA: Literary Fiction

Literary fiction for me is when books are about the writing as well as the plot.  Genre fiction can be absolutely fantastic, but it's all about the story and what is going to happen next.  Literary fiction is more than that, to me it can come from any genre but it has to impress with beautiful writing in addition to a good story.  Sometimes in literary fiction the story can take a back-seat and you get more introspective, character driven novels.

I enjoy literary fiction, and read a fair amount of it.  Lots of my favourite literary fiction books come from the Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize).  I don't tend to get along with Booker prize winning books, but I've yet to be let down by an Orange winner.  Here are some literary fiction books that I would most definitely recommend:


1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - This could be classified as historical fiction, but the beautiful writing of this retelling of the Trojan War from the point of view of Achilles' companion, Patroclus, make this definitely literary.
2. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan - This is a short and simple book about two newlyweds, Florence and Edward, on their wedding night in 1962. It's packed full of emotion.
3. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Regular readers will know that I love Adichie, and this was the first book of hers I read.  It's about the Nigerian civil war, in which the fledgling state of Biafra was created.  If you've not read it, you must!


4. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth - Yes, I know, this is a long book.  But it's completely wonderful - through the story of four families in post-Independence India, Seth manages to write completely about what it means to be a human being.
5. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan - Yes, I know, there's a lot of historical fiction set in WW2 out there, but Half Blood Blues is different.  It's told from the perspective of a black jazz player in France and completely immerses you into his character.
6. Purge by Sofi Oksanen - This is one creepy book!  An old woman in Estonia, Aliide Truu, is disturbed one morning by the discovery of a badly beaten woman, Zara, in her garden.  Nothing is quite what it seems.

It appears that I like my literary fiction in the same way I like my genre fiction - set in a different time or place!  Have you read any of these titles?

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Armchair BEA: Genre Fiction

One of the topics over at Armchair BEA today is genre fiction.  The other is blogger development, which I would struggle to write about, but I could write about genre fiction all day!  I try to be an eclectic reader and although I enjoy classics and literary fiction, I'm not one of those readers that turns her nose up at genre fiction.  I love a good chick-lit book when I'm having a busy / stressful time and there's nothing like a great horror book in the winter.  But these are by far my two favourite genres:

1) Historical Fiction


I have always adored historical fiction, as far back as I can remember.  I love to travel and I love history, so travelling through time and place in a book is one of my most favourite things to do.  When I started this blog, I tended to like Ancient Egyptian / Tudor historical fiction but now my tastes have definitely broadened; I have 73 historical fiction reviews posted (here) from places and times as far-flung as 1700s Venice, 1800s Finland and Ancient Rome.  These are the books I'd recommend to someone just starting out in historical fiction:
  • Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier - Chevalier's books are always well written, and this story of the fossil hunter Mary Anning is my favourite, as it discusses some big themes such as the role of women and science vs. God.
  • Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - I read this on honeymoon, and boy was it grittier than I was expecting!  Two sisters, May and Pearl are forced to flee Shanghai ahead of invading Japanese troops.
  • The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman - I'm not Jewish but I'm fascinated with Jewish history.  This is the story of four women sheltering from the Roman army in the fortress of Masada, Israel.

2) Fantasy


I'm much newer to fantasy, but I'm so into it at the moment!  I'm by no means an expert on the genre, so I'm simply going to write about the books I have enjoyed.  If you know more about fantasy than me, I'd love recommendations, as I'm finding it hard to know what to read....
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin - This is the series that got me back into fantasy after a long hiatus from it.  This is the one I recommend to reluctant fantasy readers.
  • The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan - I plan on rereading this series, as I only got up to book seven as a teenager.  I love big, epic, successful world building.
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley - The other type of fantasy I love is fairytale retellings, and this is one of the best I've read.
Do you read genre fiction?  If so, what genres do you enjoy?
As always, link me to your BEA posts so I can visit lots of new blogs :)

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Armchair BEA: Classics

I wasn't planning on two posts in one day, but classics are one of my favourite types of books to read, so I couldn't let the opportunity to write about them pass!

My love of classics started in childhood with Frances Hodgson Burnett. I lost count of the amount of times I read The Secret Garden, but more particularly, A Little Princess. I was an imaginative child and I loved the way that Sara Crewe used her imagination to help her get through tough times.  Alongside these, I read many abridged/children's versions of classics and soon started to love classic adventure stories too.          

As I grew older, I was introduced to many more classics in school.  I had a wonderful English Literature teacher who taught me to love Shakespeare and I continued to try them out on my own.  When I was 16, George Orwell was my hero, as I read 1984 at just the time when I was becoming interested in politics too.  It helped that my older sister was doing an English Literature degree when I was in secondary school, and was able to introduce me to lots of different classic books.

Now, as an adult, I still love classics and I'm getting to the point where I want to reread all of the classics I read as a teenager, to see if they feel any different.  These are the classics I particularly enjoy:


1. Anything Bronte - I am an intense person, so the Brontes speak to me in this regard!  Whilst I like Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, Charlotte Bronte remains my favourite, and Villette is probably my favourite book, ever.

2. Anything Gothic - My love of classic gothic literature started with Dracula, The Woman in White and Carmilla.  I've not read enough of this type of classic to satisfy me yet, but am hoping to read The Mysteries of Udophlo and then Northanger Abbey soon.

3. Epics! - I love a good epic, no matter where they come from.  I count Gone With the Wind as a classic, I loved this for its epic-ness, along with Anna Karenina and A Tale of Two Cities.  I suspect A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth will become a classic with time.

4. Politically Motivated Classics - I'm thinking of 1984 and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch.  I need to read some more books like these.

If you enjoy classics, you should really join The Classics Club.  I'm challenging myself to read 72 classics in five years, I've just finished book 9.  The list of books I plan to read is here and my reviews of classics I've already read are here.

Link me to your classics posts :)
Or, I'd love recommendations...

Armchair BEA: Introductions

I participated in Armchair BEA last year and had a great time, so I'm looking forward to this year's event.  Happily, it coincides with a week off work for me, so I should have lots of time to post and meet new bloggers.  The task for today is to introduce ourselves.

(I'm the girl!)

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? 

My name is Sam, I'm 27 and I live in the UK.  I work as a primary school teacher and I've been blogging for almost three years.  I've always loved to read and I was getting to a point in my life where my job was starting to completely take over and I needed to do something unrelated, just for me.  Book blogging seemed like a natural choice and in the last three years I've met some great people and never regretted starting.

Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. Feel free to share pictures. 

My husband and I just bought our first house, in Brentwood.  It's a great place but unfortunately it's known for being the home of The Only Way is Essex, an extremely tacky reality TV show!  It has a bit of a cult following and every Saturday night the town is full of Notherners who have come down for the 'Essex experience'; spray tan, blonde extensions and clubbing in the Sugar Hut.   We live in the more rural part, and this is five minutes walk from our back garden:

What literary location would you most like to visit? Why? 

I'd love to visit Haworth, home of the Brontes.  As far as classics go, the Brontes are my favourites with Villette probably being my favourite book, EVER.  I WILL make this visit happen one day!

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community? 

Definitely connecting with other bloggers.  I love getting recommendations of new books to read and seeing what people make of my reviews, but the best part is just meeting lots of new people, who like books just as much as I do!  Ever since I've been on Twitter, I've got to know my blogging buddies a lot better :)

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.

I wish I had an obscure talent or wild past to reveal, but sadly I am extremely ordinary.  I dream of packing up everything and moving to New Orleans, where my husband and I had the most amazing honeymoon two years ago.  We could open up a little bookshop / cafe in the French Quarter and soak up the atmosphere....

Link me to your posts!

Monday 27 May 2013

The Russian Revolution by Rupert Colley

Over the last couple of months, I've been downloading books from the 'History in an Hour' series to my kindle.  They are short, cheap and promise to offer bite sized chunks of history that can inspire you to find out more about subjects you are interested in.  During the Bout of Books Readathon, I wanted to read something that I knew I could finish quickly, so I took the chance to try one of them out.

The Russian Revolution covers Russian history from the rule of Tsar Nicholas through the failed revolutions of the early 1900s to the triumphant revolution of 1917.  Colley writes about the civil unrest in Russia at the time and the mismanagement of this by the Tsar, which led the way for revolutionary groups to gain a foothold.  We learn how the Bolsheviks (the party of Lenin and Stalin) went from being a small, fringe group of extremists to the rulers of Russia (aided a bit by the Germans, who wanted Russian anarchy).  The Russian Revolution also examines the history of Russia after 1917, how the Reds won the resultant Civil War and how Stalin used Lenin's death to maneuver himself into power, even though he was unpopular.

I was actually very impressed with The Russian Revolution.  As it was so cheap, I wasn't expecting much from it, but it exceeded my expectations.  I was already familiar with a lot of the history (I studied the Russian Revolution for my GCSE History, but that was years ago!) so it provided an excellent refresher.  Although there just isn't the space for anything to be covered in depth, there's a good breadth of information and everything is explained clearly and concisely, something a lot of history writers can struggle with.

The Russian Revolution isn't a book to go to if you are looking for analysis or commentary on historical events.  It sticks to the bare outlines of what happened and is good for providing a general overview of a topic.  I finished the book eager to read more about the Russian Revolution and I'm already scanning my shelves, trying to decide which book about it I will pick up next.  If, like me, you're interested in a topic but feel like you need something introductory before reading a more in depth book on it, the History in an Hour series would make a good choice.

Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2012
Score: 4 out of 5

Read Alongside:
I used to read a lot about the history of Communism, these are all books I read pre-blogging, that would work after reading this more introductory book.
1. Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Monteifore - A biography of the early life of Stalin by a good historian.  Who knew that Stalin was a bank robber and had great success with the ladies?  I've not read the follow up, Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar yet.
2. The Rise and Fall of Communism by Archie Brown - This is an absolute door-stop of a book but it's also an excellent and readable account of the history of Communism across the world, not just in Russia.  It took me a whole summer to read this one, but I loved it.
3. In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century by Geert Mak - This is an intriguing mix of travelogue and history.  Mak travels across Europe and 'back in time'.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Sam Sunday #16 / Library Haul #4

This weekly update is bought to you by my adorable nephew, who is now six and a half months old.  He's recently started trying food that isn't milk and he's become utterly obsessed with the act of eating - last night he was watching me eat a curry for almost twenty minutes looking like he would like nothing more than to try some for himself!  In the last few months, his curiosity about the world has dramatically increased, as he's learned to sit up and use his hands to grab things.  As all the other women in the family have short, dark hair, he loves my longer, lighter hair and misses no opportunity to grab it and give it a good hard yank!

This weekend marks the start of the half term break here in the UK, which means a week off of work (school).  Although I still have things I need to do, I can at least do them from the comfort of my own home. The most recent half-term was exhausting (inspections and exams), so the opportunity to recharge my batteries has come just at the right time.

I'm also hoping to get a lot of decorating done.  We've booked a plasterer to completely re-do the main bedroom, but he isn't available for a month, so we're going to start by redecorating the living room, which already has a nice laminate floor and smooth, even walls.  It's the only room in the house that doesn't require plastering on the walls, although the artex on the ceiling will need plaster-boarding when we have enough money.  Tomorrow, we plan on painting the walls camomile, a nice buttery pale yellow shade and then painting the woodwork and window frames white, to brighten it up.  It's a quick fix and it'll be lovely to have one room done to our taste.

Reading wise, I've been in a bit of a slump ever since the end of the Bout of Books readathon.  I've picked up and put down lots of books, including Kim by Rudyard Kipling, which I know I would have loved if I had been in a normal frame of mind.  In the end I decided to revisit an old favourite, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and that seems to be doing the trick.  I also visited the library and tried to pick out books different from those I would normally read:


1. Mirror Mirror by Gregory Maguire - Although I didn't love Wicked, I do enjoy fairy-tale retellings so this retelling of Snow White seemed worth a read.
2. Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin - Historical fiction is usually my go-to genre during a reading slump, but I haven't felt like reading it much lately.  Lavinia comes well recommended by lots of bloggers I trust, and will be my first Ursula Le Guin novel.
3. Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie - This might seem like a strange choice, as I really couldn't get into Midnight's Children.  But this one was written for his children and promises to be a magical fantasy quest, which I could totally get on board for at the moment!

Any tips for getting out of a reading slump?

Saturday 25 May 2013

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

The Innocents opens with the engagement of Adam to long-term girlfriend Rachel.  They both live in the Hampstead Garden suburb of London, home to an insular Jewish community in which everyone knows each other, family is paramount and life follows a pre-destined route.  Adam is finally ready to settle down until the arrival of Rachel's tearaway cousin, Ellie, prompts him to question how sheltered his life has been.  Although Ellie has had her scrapes (like being kicked out of university for starring in a risque film), her worldliness makes Adam realise how little of life he has seen or experienced.  Is he prepared to settle for someone as insular as him, with no desire to broaden her horizons?

I've seen some mixed reviews of The Innocents, but I simply loved everything about this book.  I loved the dry, slightly sarcastic tone, the way the characters kept you guessing but most of all I loved how it addressed something that we all experience at some point in our lives - when do you decide to be happy with your lot, and when is it right to break away and experience the world?  Adam's struggle between the everyday contentedness he knows he can experience with Rachel and the more exciting but risky life that Ellie offers is surely something that we've all been through, even if not related to our romantic lives.  It goes right down to the small level, for example, when do we decide to leave a job we are comfortable in, in order to take a chance on something potentially better but also potentially worse?

All three of the central characters were interesting, although Ellie was perhaps the least interesting of the bunch.  Her rebellion against her family's lifestyle mixed with her yearning for their acceptance made her motivation easy to understand.  At first I thought Rachel was easy to read too, someone completely sheltered and naive, but she surprised me at certain points in the book.  Her innocence, her lifestyle, is a deliberate choice and it's something that she is prepared to defend.  Even though Adam arguably acted wrongly throughout the novel, I felt sorry for him at the end.  Everyday contentedness comes at a cost, after all.  I liked how the morality of the book was open to interpretation all the way through, and the ambiguity of the actions of the main characters.

I've not read Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, so I can't comment on how it relates to the original.  All I can say that reading Age of Innocence isn't essential to understanding and appreciating The Innocents. I read a digital review copy of this book, but I'll definitely be purchasing a physical copy to add to my own collection.

You will enjoy The Innocents if:
  • You like satire or books that play on the unwritten rules of society.
  • You've ever questioned the decisions you made in your early twenties.
  • You're interested in Judaism or the social rules of Jewish communites.
  • You don't mind moral ambiguities and complex characters.
Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
First Published: 2012
Score: 5 out of 5

Thursday 23 May 2013

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown

After the death of her mother, Emma is given the keys to a dilapidated house in Valencia.  With her career and personal life in shambles, she decides to start over by moving abroad against the wishes of her grandmother, Freya.  As Emma starts to renovate the house and meet the locals, it becomes clear that both the house and her grandmother have been hiding secrets.  Alongside this contemporary story, we also have the story of Freya, Charles and Rosa, set during the Spanish Civil War.  Swept up by the urge to save Spain from the fascists, Freya volunteers as a nurse and her brother Charles joins the army as a reporter.  Rosa is a young girl fighting with her husband Jordi on the side of the republicans, but after an incident, she is left with Jordi's brother, the fascist Vicente.  As the village becomes further divided by events, the three young people are caught up in a web of secrets.

I so wanted to like this book.  Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and it's rare to see a fiction book set during the Spanish Civil War.  Although I know a little bit about the history of the time, I don't know very much and I was looking forward learning more about this particular time period.  On this criteria, the book was successful as Lord Brown was able to convey the devastation of the war effectively and the sense of time and place was vivid.  There's one memorable scene early in the book where two war photographers take a picture of a 'falling man', a man who has just been shot, and these kinds of images repeat throughout the historical sections, building up to a strong impression of the war.  Even in the contemporary sections, there was a hint that the Spanish characters were still divided, still feeling the after-effects of the civil war.

However (and it's a big however), I just couldn't get along with the plot.  The Perfume Garden is a sweeping epic and whilst I love sweeping epics in general, it was just too melodramatic for me.  There was a lot of all good (Luca) and all bad characters (Vicente, Delilah) and the pages are full of dramatic incidents.  I would liked to have seen the fascist characters developed as more than simply 'bad because they were fascists'.  As I said, I don't mind drama and epics, but there was too much melodrama in this book and I didn't find events towards the end of the story believable.  This completely killed my enjoyment of it as I couldn't get into the book and live the story.  

Other readers have really enjoyed The Perfume Garden, but it didn't work for me.

First Published: 2012
Score: 2.5 out of 5

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

New Years Eve 1937; Katey Kontent and her boardinghouse roommate Evie Ross are listening to a jazz quartet in New York when they meet the apparently wealthy Tinker Grey.  This meeting of chance sets both of them on a path to the highest ranks of glamorous New York society during the inter-war period.  A secretary and daughter of Russian immigrants, Katey's new connections soon lead to lots of opportunities for both her career and her personal life.  But her close friendship with Evie is strained by circumstance and by the relationship both girls have with the charismatic Tinker, who isn't quite all he seems.

Rules of Civility is worth reading for the sense of time and place it evokes alone.  Every time I picked it up, I was transported to swinging New York, with all it's flapper dresses, midnight parties and Gatsby-esque mansions.  I just adored losing myself completely in the past and Towles effortlessly transports you back in time in a completely seamless way.  The descriptions were so good that at times I felt as though I was watching a movie rather than reading a book (and a fabulous movie it would make too).

Another strength of the book was the main character, Katey.  She's smart and sarcastic, but there is a touch of vulnerability about her too, that makes her easy to relate to.  She has a lot of ups and downs throughout the course of the novel and I really found myself rooting for her as she came across as completely real.  I liked that Katey was quite secretive as a narrator; Towles leaves it up to us to read between the lines in order to work out what she really thinks and feels.

Although the beginning and ending of Rules of Civility were completely engaging, I did find that the middle sections dragged a bit.  There were a lot of secondary characters introduced, a lot of people that Katey met at parties, and it was hard to keep them straight at times.  Evie and Tinker disappear off page for a large part of the middle of the book, and their absence makes the plot a bit duller.  The middle was just missing the spark of the beginning and end.

Rules of Civility is a well written book, evocative of 1930s New York.  You will like it if:
  • You like F. Scott Fitzgerald (particularly The Great Gatsby).
  • You enjoy well written historical fiction.
  • You love the glamour and decadence of the inter-war period.
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 2011
My Edition: Sceptre, 2012
Score: 4 out of 5

Monday 20 May 2013

Classics Club Spin / Bout of Books Wrap-Up

Today, the Classics Club spin number was announced as #6.  This means that my challenge over the next month is to read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

I do feel that the spin has been kind to me as Rebecca was on my 'books I am neutral about' list, rather than the 'books I am dreading' one.  It's a relatively short book that I already own, so reading it should pose no problems.  In fact, I have high hopes that I'm going to very much enjoy it, as regular readers will know that I'm a big fan of gothic fiction.

This week also marks the end of the Bout of Books readathon.  My only main goal for the week was to read for at least an hour a day, which I accomplished.  Although my enthusiasm for the read-a-thon started to wane a bit by the weekend, I'm thrilled that I managed to finish four books and get three quarters of the way through the fifth.  I visited some great new blogs that I'm sure I'll keep up with and enjoyed giving myself the permission to spend some more time reading and blogging.  The only downside is the backlog of reviews I now have to catch up on!

Did you take part in any of these events?
I'd love to hear which book you got on the classics club spin!

Saturday 18 May 2013

Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss

I'm not exactly an organic food goddess, but I do try to eat home-cooked meals, even if they aren't always the healthiest!  I've really discovered cooking over the last few years, and my repertoire of meals that I can successfully make is gradually expanding. I cook a dinner from scratch every night.  One thing I've noticed is that the more I eat meals I have made myself, the more that ready meals or sauces from a jar taste wrong.  My taste buds must have acclimatized because ready made pasta and chilli con carne sauces now taste overly sweet and ready meals just taste salty, missing the range of different tastes that come when you cook the meal for yourself.

I was interested to read Salt, Sugar, Fat to find out more about processed foods and the way ingredients are used to create combinations that leave us craving more.  With a section devoted to salt, sugar and fat separately, Moss covers the history of the use of these ingredient in processed foods, and how the major (mainly US-based) food manufacturers use them to cultivate dependency, heavy use and therefore large profits.

That salt, sugar and fat are bad for you is hardly going to be news for the majority of readers and indeed, Salt, Sugar, Fat contains lots of information that I've heard before, from lots of different sources.  Some of the familiar facts included; fizzy drinks make you more hungry, cheese is chock-full of fat and too much salt can lead to heart conditions.  A book like this always runs the risk of preaching to the choir but luckily Moss also includes information about newer research findings, such as the way sugar lights up the same pleasure centres in our brains as hard drugs, or that it can be so addictive that rats will willingly undergo electric shocks in order to get another slice of cheesecake.  There is no 'stop signal' in our bodies when it comes to eating fatty foods, and it becomes invisible to consumers as soon as sugar is also added.

The most interesting part of the book for me was when Moss interviewed industry insiders and looked at the social implications of their product development and marketing.  Poorer families and districts are deliberately and explicitly targeted.   I teach in a socially deprived area of inner London and the majority of children in my class eat processed, fatty, fast foods every single day.  According to Moss, this is a deliberate move, presumably as chaotic families lack the skills or budget needed to resist.  At one point, Moss interviews a food executive who was in charge of opening up a new market in Brazil.  As he tours the slums, the exec realises that whilst the children and families there need a lot of things, they don't need a can of Coke.  The morality of such marketing campaigns deserves to be questioned.

Reading Salt, Sugar, Fat was fascinating, but it was all heavily US-based.  I think the problem of processed foods is larger than that, it's a problem the whole Western world faces, so it would have been interesting to see some acknowledgement of this in the text.  Apart from that, I found it engaging and well written, one I would definitely recommend.

You will enjoy Salt, Sugar, Fat if:

  • You are interested in the politics of big corporations and their effect on society.
  • You enjoy social history.
  • You are interested in where your food comes from or in trying to eat healthily.
  • You simply like well written, engaging non-fiction.
Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
First Published: 2013
Score: 3.5 out of 5

Friday 17 May 2013

Bout of Books: Thursday - Sunday Updates

Thursday was another successful reading day; I managed to finish The Innocents by Francesca Segal, my third completed book since Monday.  After having a reading slump for most of the month before the read-a-thon, it's lovely to be in the situation of having to catch up with review writing for a change!

Day: Thursday 16th May 2013
Time Spent Reading: 2 hours.

Friday 17th May 2013

9pm - I've not done any reading at all yet today!  My husband had two extremely intense days at work, so we celebrated by going out to dinner and then listening to cheesy 90s rock/grunge music on spotify.  I'm planning to blog for a bit, then start The Perfume Garden for a blog tour I have coming up on the 23rd.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Bout of Books: Wednesday's Update

Ah, life.  Why do you always have to interfere when I want to do nothing but read?  I managed to get a good chunk of reading done whilst getting the brakes on my car checked at the garage but due to circumstances, I had to spend quite a lot of time helping out my husband in the evening with some things for his work.  At my work, my class are taking their exams and I think the stress of this plus staying up a bit later than usual every night is getting to me a bit.  I'm feeling sleepy!

Day: Wednesday 15th May 2013
Time spent reading: 1 hour 30 minutes
Books Read: Still working on The Innocents.  It's a perfect pick for a read-a-thon as it's fast paced and easy to read / engrossing.
Books Finished: Still 2

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Bout of Books: Tuesday's Update

Tuesday was a much more successful reading day than Monday!  I had a busy and extremely stressful day at work so it was lovely to come home and know that I had an evening of reading relaxation in front of me.  I finished Rules of Civility by about 9pm, which left me with the luxury of choosing a new book (The Innocents by Francesca Segal) and properly settling in to it before going to bed.  I didn't watch any TV all evening, which has actually made a very refreshing change - I could get used to this!  My husband is currently in the middle of the Hunger Games books and can't put them down, so we had a bit of a joint reading session curled up on the sofa.

I am behind on writing reviews, but then that is to be expected! This week is all about reading, I'll catch up with reviews at the weekend.

Day: Tuesday 14th May 2013
Time Spent Reading: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Books Read: I'm on my third
Books Finished: 2