Two more book reviews for you:
I enjoyed Kathleen Flinn's memoir The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. The subtitle is Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School, referring, of course, to Le Cordon Bleu. Flinn is a corporate workaholic who suddenly finds herself downsized out of the company, with no plans for her "next step." She decides to take advantage of the work hiatus to chase her lifelong dream of graduating from Le Cordon Bleu. With a smattering of grade-school French and no experience in a "real" kitchen, she takes a leap of faith and enrolls. Each chapter describes a particular cooking lesson, including everything from how to properly "turn" (cut) vegetables to how to butcher a rabbit, as well as descriptions of her explorations of Paris with her new friends, who are attending the school from all over the world. This book won't knock your socks off, but it made for interesting reading and I ended up feeling much more a part of the author's world during that time than I did when I read Service Included, another in the "woman embarks on intense food-related career" genre (see that review here).
Next up was another slim novella from Stewart O'Nan, author of the much-acclaimed Last Night at the Lobster (glowingly reviewed here). This one was The Odds: A Love Story, which tells the story of Art and Marion, a couple in their early fifties who are facing likely divorce and even likelier bankruptcy. With nothing else to lose, they cash in their meager savings, book the honeymoon suite at a resort on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls for Valentine's Day weekend, and plan to double their money or go bust at the high-stakes roulette tables. (Art has devised a "system" for betting.) During the days, they do some schlocky sight-seeing, both hyperaware of the difficulties they face and the mistakes they've made but trying to make the best of it. This book was a pretty depressing statement on the stagnation of marriage. I didn't feel that O'Nan presented Art and Marion in a balanced way—I think he meant to have us feel that both deserved equal blame and credit, but I didn't. A weird problem I had was that because of their names, I kept thinking that they were much older than me and Andy. I have probably met a couple of Arthurs younger than 60, but not any I can think of, and I definitely have never met a Marion younger than 70. O'Nan is 51, so I don't know what he was thinking—people our age are named Sue and Mike and Lisa and Dave! So I had to keep reminding myself that this story was about my contemporaries, not my parents' contemporaries. And finally, I thought the ending came too abruptly. All that being said, I did enjoy myself while reading it—O'Nan is a terrific writer—so I think you could do worse than spend a few hours enjoying the dialogue and the prose even though the story is pretty much a downer.