Karen McCue

After years working as a corporate drone, I figured out that my job was getting in the way of much more interesting activities:  reading, cooking, travel, or an occasional ski day (weekdays only, over 25 degrees and sunny).  I landed in Petoskey and now call it my privilege to keep the books straight (the financial books, that is) at McLean & Eakin Booksellers.  


I have one grown son and many nieces and nephews who all live in wonderful places that I love to visit (SFO, BWI, PWM, DEN airport codes).  When I’m not reading almost anything recommended by one of the brilliant people at the McLean & Eakin, I’m cooking or enjoying the fresh air.  







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The Lowland Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307265746
Availability: Special Order
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - September 24th, 2013

From Pulitzer Prize winning author, Jhumpa Lahiri, comes this multi-generational story of a family scarred and scattered by tragedy in the late-1960's Calcutta. 
Close brothers, Subhash and Udayan, grow up in Calcutta where privilege vs. poverty is a remnant of a society created under former British rule.  They begin to forge different paths prior to and during their university years.   Subhash studies to become a scientific researcher and eventually moves to Rhode Island to study and work, while Udayan marries and becomes more involved with the Naxalites, a communist rebel movement seeking to end the inequity and poverty that plague his homeland.   As tragedy ensues, the outcome for each present and future family member plays out with far-reaching consequences. 
Lahiri's prose eloquently covers a broad span of time, history, geography and society yet captures each character's intimately evocative voice and story.

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Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America's Top Restaurants Cover Image
ISBN: 9781599621029
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Welcome Books - October 11th, 2011

Ever wonder what restaurant employees eat for their Staff Meal?   Or for what reason(s)?   In Off the Menu, the author of this jam-packed-book-full-of-foodie-heaven has featured Staff Meals from 150 fine restaurants across our great culinary nation.  And Michigan is well-represented by Siren Hall in Elk Rapids and Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor.
For some restaurants, the Staff Meal is the test-run of a new menu item.  For others who include their local suppliers, it is an opportunity to try a new product (think seasonal heirloom tomatoes).   For most, it is the only time that the front and back of the house can sit down together to commiserate on the day's specials, events, successes and failures....  or  just about their day in general.  Like a family that might be passing ships as they dash out the door in morning , but make it a policy to sit down to the dinner meal together.
Not only are there great recipes, but this book includes a feature on each restaurant and an interview with the owner, manager or chef.   Wanna know what food trend that Alex Young (executive chef at Zingerman's )  would like to erase from the annals of history?   You'll have to get the book!

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Truth in Advertising Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451675542
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Touchstone Books - January 22nd, 2013

This is the author's debut novel, and it is apparent from the first chapter that Kenney has used his extensive experience as a copy writer well.  As a contributor to The New Yorker, readers might be familiar with some of his stories in the humor collection Disquiet, Please.
The book opens with the main character, Fin Dolan, on a set where his national diaper account is being filmed.  The laugh-out-loud moments are numerous - a mix-up in casting the baby, temperamental clients, quirky co-workers, and in this scenario, a schedule-challenged VIP starring in the commercial.  The subject of diapers alone provides unlimited humor, some highbrow and some a bit raunchy.
But this book is much more than just a behind-the-scenes look at the advertising business.  Fin's estranged father is dying.  Fin - in his late thirties - is the youngest of four and their abusive father left the family when Fin was twelve.   None of his siblings are willing to participate in what turns out to be an anticlimactic event - his father's death - and the subsequent arrangements that have to be made.  Fin has had relationship and other detachment issues most of his life, but doesn't really know that or begin to work through them until he deals with his father's death and the things he learns about his father's life.
Unlike so many new cable series and films where each member of the cast is brilliant and the over-the-top witty dialogue sounds the same (spoken at the speed of lightening), John Kenney's characters are diverse, multi-dimensional and so believably true.  The writing is fast, smart, modern, funny and poignant.  One of my favorites reads this year. 

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CookFight: 2 Cooks, 12 Challenges, 125 Recipes, an Epic Battle for Kitchen Dominance Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061988387
Availability: Special Order
Published: Ecco - October 30th, 2012

Another cookbook that reads like a novel (see review on the Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends). Add the competition element that heats up with boasts and snarky comments between the contestants, and we've got a winner! The authors are New York Times food writers and refer to one another affectionately as "Work Wives." When NYT Restaurant Critic and collegue, Frank Bruni, challenges them to a cook-off to be featured in the paper, it is the start of something big. Kim and Julia set off on a year-long continuous competition that turns into the book, Cook Fight. Frank's original throw-down, The Budget Challenge, featured a six-person dinner party (sans liquor and pantry items) for $50.00. The chapters then go on to include The Comfort Challenge, The Children's Challenge; and subsequently the Picnic, Weekday, Bake-off, Thanksgiving and Open House Challenges. They are arranged by month and I know I will revisit this book often throughout the year. We made the Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe for Christmas 2012 and it was a hit! The concepts and perspectives of these two women for each challenge are diverse and fascinating. Although Kim and Julia are completely different personalities and temperaments, they have motherhood, work and a love of food in common. In the end, everyone - including the reader - is a winner.

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Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393070217
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - December 5th, 2011

I am anxiously anticipating Extra Virginity: The Sublime & Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller, because at my age, I can use some extra virginity.  Seriously.  And who doesn't need a little scandal for dessert?  The subject of fraud relating to the production and selling of Extra Virgin Olive Oil was introduced by the author in his explosive Aug-2007 article in The New Yorker in which he described the extent of the fraud as follows: "In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force.  (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,” an investigator told the author.)”  In a rich narrative, Extra Virginity documents the history of this age-old product as a food-group, health and beauty aid and necessity in certain religious rites; through the current actions of the artisans, activists, analysts and advocates who are trying to keep the industry "pure."

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The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends: New Recipes, Stories & Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307590558
Availability: Special Order
Published: Clarkson Potter Publishers - September 20th, 2011

Readers of the authors' previous book, How to Eat Supper, will not be disappointed. As co-creators of Public Radio's popular show, The Splendid Table, this follow-up book continues the tradition of the show to educate, create and advocate while entertaining the reader throughout. While How to Eat Supper deals with weekday meals, "Weekends" is for seeking out and exploring diverse neighborhood markets, products and cooking techniques to share with family and friends. The beginning of the book features chapters laid out as individual menus - Vietnamese, Mexican, Vegan, Italian, etc. - and each menu includes appetizers, main course, sides and dessert. The chapter continues with shopping hints, recommended brands, helpful culinary tools and unique techniques specific to each ethnicity or menu. The schedule for preparing the meal (many items prepped or completed a day or two ahead) is a valuable tool not often used in traditional cookbooks. The rest of the book has over 100 recipes with recommended wine pairings and several options for leftovers. And as always with Lynn and Sally, the recipes are intertwined with stories, how-tos, quotations, anecdotes, history, education, humor, trends and advocacy. To call it a cookbook, would be a disservice.

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The Expats: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307956354
Availability: Special Order
Published: Crown - March 6th, 2012

What a thriller this author's first novel turned out to be! Kate Moore and her family move to Luxembourg for her husband, Dexter's, work as a network security consultant. In what would normally be a challenging cultural transition for any normal mother and wife, Kate is not normal. Her previous job writing position papers for an innocuous US government department was a cover for her work as a CIA operative - a fact of which her husband and friends are unaware. As the family settles into their new environs, a friendly American couple befriends Kate and Dexter. Due to several incidents and possibly her paranoia, Kate begins to suspect that her husband's job might be a cover for something criminal and their new friends might not be who they purport to be. Communication from her old cohorts at the CIA adds credence to her suspicions and Kate fears that her past is coming back to haunt her. This fast-paced intelligently written book was hard to put down. The author combines Kate's hardened spy mentality with the real emotions of a mother and wife, whose relationship is suffering from trust issues, both real and imagined. The plot is laid out using non-sequential chronology - moving between future events, Kate's past experiences in the CIA, to present day Luxembourg - effectively keeping the reader guessing. A very contemporary and well done novel.

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A Land More Kind Than Home: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062088147
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: William Morrow - April 17th, 2012

In a small western N. Carolina mountain town, nine-year old Jess Hall and his mute older brother, Stump, witness something they don't fully understand, but know is bad. As a result, a charismatic evangelical preacher and his church elders attempt to cure Stump, with tragic consequences. The County sheriff's investigation into how and why this tragedy occurred unfolds, while the secrets that Jess holds compound his grief and guilt. This story is told in alternating chapters by three people: Jess Hall; Adelaide Lyle, the local midwife and protector of the community's children; and Clem Barefield, the sheriff, whose has also known tragic loss. First-time novelist, Wiley Cash, perfectly captures the voices and cadence of these distinct characters as well as the time period and geography of the region with its hollers and coves. This is a literary and poignant story about fathers and sons; forgiveness and absolute evil.

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Yes, Chef: A Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385342605
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Random House - June 26th, 2012

Marcus was born in Ethiopia and orphaned by the time he was three. He and his sister were adopted by a Swedish family, and in his Grandmother Helga's kitchen, his love of cooking was born. Armed with the love, warmth and high standards of his upbringing, Marcus pursues his aspiration to create a world view of food. As his talent and knowledge develop, he learns about more than just food in France and Switzerland's cutthroat kitchens; the mercurial trends of New York restaurants; the pressure of his White House dinner; and the discovery of everything encompassed by the word family as he travels back to Ethiopia to meet his birth-father. His revelations about relationships, success (and failures !), regret and sacrifice, are all documented honestly, and at times, with self-deprecating humor. Marcus's journey from the rigors of European culinary training to the opening of his own restaurant, Red Rooster, in Harlem are chronicled in this intelligently-written memoir that reads like a novel.


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