An April 2023 Indie Next List selection, Beyond That, the Sea is a rich historical novel told from several characters’ points of view by chapter, spanning a period between 1940 and 1977. Eleven-year-old Beatrix Thompson (Bea) joins the evacuation of London and sails to Boston to live out the worst of the WWII Blitz with her host family, the Gregorys. Her angst during war time is expected, but to leave her parents, who live with the peril of daily bombings, and travel to an unknown family, country, and culture is overwhelming. As she starts to integrate with the new family, she experiences guilt at her increasing joy of becoming a surrogate sibling to Gerald, just a bit younger than Bea, and William, two years older, and at becoming the only “daughter” of her American host parents, who are of a much different economic/social class than her biological family.
Then Bea finds that her true self is developing and starting to "grow up" at the Gregory’s summer residence, on an island just off the southern coast of Maine. She continues to acclimate through new-found activities (she’d never learned to swim or row before); develops confidence through the thrill of competing with the boys; and discovers the pleasures of solitude through hikes in the woods. Tragedy, love and unrealized dreams follow this coming-of-age period as Bea returns after five long years to a changed England and family circumstances, while her relationship with the Gregory family gradually fades. Until…
The multitude of historical WWII fiction that I’ve read has dealt with the impacted lives of the residents, soldiers, occupiers, resistance units, and even young evacuees from London, but mainly to other parts of Great Britain. This was a different take on evacuations – almost emigration? – but cut short during the most impressionable time in a young person’s emotional development. A compelling read.
Over the years, I have found that certain (non-food) publications have great “food-cred” – as in, their published recipes are consistently credible - achievable for home cooks, contain readily-available ingredients, and are delicious. My recipe box has many of our family faves torn (or now downloaded) from Midwest Living magazine. Their restaurant features in the travel section are also reliable. Who wants to spend time and money during a one-meal stop in an underachieving tourist-trap café? And now, because Midwest Living featured SOUP SEASON last month, I’ve found that their cookbook recommendations dig even deeper than what’s trending with well-known chefs. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to buy Erin French’s new one!)
I thought the title of this book was just SOUP SEASON – how appropriate in the throes of Autumn 2023, when the snowflakes started flying? Now that I’ve devoured this book (pun intended), I know why it’s called Every Season is Soup Season. The Table of Contents is laid out by the four seasons with cold, hot, and room-temp recipes than specifically lean on the ingredients that are seasonally available. Then there’s a chapter entitled Enhancers with things like frizzled shallots, and smoked gouda grilled cheese croutons – yum!; and another for Accompaniments like quick yogurt flatbread, brown butter pumpkin cornbread, and peach poblano slaw. Each recipe is vegetarian, but many do have meat suggestions. And THEN, there are instructions to convert the leftovers into a different meal the next day (or next week/month if you freeze the leftovers). So cool, right?
Many of my cookbooks read like novels, and I love them almost equally. But SOUP SEASON will be an actively working part of my collection. Where do you get your new-recipe-inspiration? I’d love to know. (Reply back and we'll compile your answers in a future email!)
This is Jiles's third consecutive novel set from the end of the US Civil War to Reconstruction (Simon the Fiddler and News of the World). Though not a series, this is an era the author has researched and mastered.
John Chenneville, a Union soldier, has made his way back to the family farm in Missouri, after a long recovery from an almost-fatal head injury suffered toward the end of the Civil War. As he continues to heal, he learns that his sister, her husband, and their infant child have been brutally killed in his absence. He vows to regain his strength and avenge their deaths. Information he gathers points to a man named AJ Dodd as the murderer – a heinous poser with many aliases and vocations, who is headed for Texas. First, John takes care of the disposition of his farm and land, knowing he might never return. Then, under increasingly arduous conditions, John relentlessly tracks AJ Dodd and the continuing path of destruction the murderer leaves in his wake. Along the way, he takes refuge from unpassable weather with a young telegraphist. They form a bond over books and telegraphy, a skill John acquired during his service. And he finally opens his heart to the incomparable Miss Victoria Reavis, another telegraphist, farther along in his journey. Will John find happiness; spend his remaining life in prison after finding and killing Dodd; or will he die trying?
Paulette Jiles weaves rich, finely-honed geographic details into this story seamlessly, with the patois and authenticity of her characters. Through the author’s writing, you feel the wind, frostbite, and sunburn; see the beauty and destruction of the land; and experience the tension leading up to the conclusion of John Chenneville’s quest.
This is the story of the four McKenzie sisters in 1922 Vancouver – during Prohibition, post-war, post-pandemic. They could not be more different – one is in an unhappy marriage, one is in love with another woman, and two are pregnant, though one is in love with her sister’s husband. Roaring twenties soap opera? No. These are all smart, hard-working, working-class women who have experienced considerable loss due to the Great War and Influenza pandemic who want better options than are afforded women of their generation.
Take Georgina’s thoughts on her weekly gathering of what she refers to as the DWG – Dreadful Women’s Group: “The DWG does not discuss fathers who are atheists, women who miscarry, sisters who have abortions, Darwin, birth control, women’s rights, Socialists, the war dead, men with one arm, anger. …Georgina sat quietly… she herself a fine example of that class of person for which the DWGs are sure there is no cure. And she smiled and nodded her head.”
Their story is fast-paced and riveting with great dialogue and the smart brand of funny. The reader forgets at times they are reading the story of 1920s North America, because the issues encountered by these women are still today’s headlines: homophobia, addiction, police corruption, #Me-Too moments, war, abortion and health care, and pandemics.
Higdon is a Canadian author whose sense of time and place make her writing, whether it is historical or contemporary, so relatable. There is very little nuance when she is dealing with human rights (also a recurring theme in her debut novel – The Very Marrow of Our Bones). And if you do an internet search for the title of this book (Gin Turpentine…), you might find an obscure NYT article from 2013 that makes it all too clear (and graphic) what desperate actions women without safe options may take. Pretty brilliant on the author’s part.
Jenny Jackson is a vice president and executive editor of Alfred A. Knofp and wrote her debut novel in four months while sitting on a closed toilet lid each evening while she kept an eye on her two kids in the bathtub (more-or-less). Her story of the Stockton family is set in an uber-elite enclave within Brooklyn Heights known as the fruit street streets (Pineapple, Cranberry and Orange), and is a fast-paced parody or satire, I can’t decide which, of inherited wealth. Unlike other classic and award-winning books that deal with very rich people with problems (waaah… here’s looking at you “Great” this and that), this book has hilarious, train-wreck situations from which you can’t look away and don’t want to.The Stocktons (second generation) and their three adult children live practically next to each other, dine together regularly - tablescapes and all, and play competitive tennis together at one of their many clubs. Darley, the eldest, has given up her trust fund (never fear, it reverts to her children) by not forcing her Korean-American husband to sign a prenup. Her brother, Cord, has married a middle-class entrepreneur who is dealing with the detritus of his siblings in the family home they were recently given by his parents. And the youngest, Georgiana, works for a not-for-profit, and after a personal tragedy, has found morality and wishes to divest herself of her trust fund (its $37M value unknown to her since the statements went online five years prior). Each third generation family member has broken the sacred rules they have learned since birth: never touch the principal; protect the wealth; marry within your class so as not to dilute its value. How they deal with these problems and their eventual (pretty satisfying) resolutions is narrated by the adult children and sister-in-law in alternating chapters. Did I say hilarious?According to Oxfam’s Annual Inequality Report in January 2023, "...of the world’s wealthiest residents, the top 1% have captured nearly twice as much new wealth as the rest of the world over the past two years." These are our Stocktons. In their world, preschool tuition costs 150% of the annual per capita income of Emmet County, Michigan. According to the author, this novel was inspired, in part, by an article in The New York Times titled, “The Rich Kids Who Want to Tear Down Capitalism,” “...about socially minded millennial heirs who feel like their inheritance is at odds with their morality.” I think she did an outstanding job!
To live with adult family members as their revelatory backstories are shared, while doing cathartic manual labor on a cherry orchard in Northern Michigan? Oh how I wish to have been one of Tom Lake's characters during the pandemic! One of my favorites from the stellar Ann Patchett.
-Another really really great crime novel from NYT bestselling British-Australian author Jane Harper (The Dry). I just can’t put her books down - probably because the central characters are ordinary people, and the crime solving isn’t a typical procedural.Exiles slyly unfolds around other story lines, with Federal Agent, Aaron Falk, traveling to attend a rescheduled christening for his close friends’ child in a rural wine country community of South Australia. A year earlier, a woman within their circle disappeared, and the local investigation has dead-ended without resolution. Falk was one of many people who spotted the woman during her last hours in the area at the annual local fair, but is strictly on a much-needed vacation for this year’s trip. He is drawn in, however, by the missing woman’s teenage daughter, who is convinced her mother is still alive; and others who want or do not want him involved in any investigation.Concurrently, a spark is reignited with the woman who is running this year’s fair, and with whom Falk had a brief previous encounter. This and an interesting job offer cause him to question his never-wavering career path as he unwinds in wine country.The novel has suspense without undue tension, and the ending is smart, not gratuitous. And, as mentioned at the book’s opening, all the signs were there.
From another NYT bestselling author (Kitchens of the Great Midwest) comes a multigenerational story that captures the essence of OG Supper Clubs* sprinkled across the Midwest and the families that keep the tradition going. From the relish tray and bread basket that arrive at your table as you are seated, to the pre-dinner warmup of brandy old-fashioned cocktail(s), I’m wondering why the heck there are not more of these places still around.Mariel Prager inherits sole ownership of the Lakeside Supper Club on Bear Jaw Lake, Minnesota (originally known as Floyd and Betty’s Lakeside Supper Club - established in 1919) upon her grandfather’s death in 1996. She has managed the bar most of her adult life, but now she’s in charge. She is also dealing with: her estranged mother who has holed-up in a local church; a chain of successful diners owned by her husband Ned’s family that stretch from the Twin Cities to their hometown of Bear Jaw; and continuing fertility issues. The cast of quirky characters evoke everything we know about small towns – good and bad. Mariel’s next-generation thinking and friends outside of their family of traditionalists, are not welcomed by her semi-grifter mother (who learned it from her full-on grifter mother). Acceptance and forgiveness play a role along the way.This is a poignant novel with laugh-out-loud moments. It shifts between characters and the generations they inhabit, and tells the origin story of the Lakeside Supper Club, continuing through its outcome in present day. I’ve said it before, J. Ryan Stradal has an uncanny sense and can write the daylights out of the strong, willing and able-minded women that head up each of the casts of his three novels. A delightful and satisfying read.*OG = original
Cookbook author and New York Times staff writer, Melissa Clark, has compiled an incredible tome of recipes that fit in a normal-sized cookbook with photos that make my mouth water. Maybe it’s the time of year when one-pot meals connotes comfort food for the changing of seasons? The well-organized list (table of contents) breaks down the recipes by cooking method – sheet pan, skillet, dutch oven, casserole, multi-cookers, etc. The book includes recipes that are ethnically wide-ranging, heavily adaptable to plant-based meals, efficient, and appealing in a way that encourages you to hit the farmers' market right NOW to cook up a weekend’s worth of deliciousness.
The surprises I found in the book were: (1) there might be more than 1 pan, pot or bowl per recipe. But they are minimized well. As the author points out, most home cooks don’t have the vast quantities of prep tools that professional chefs have in their kitchens. Nor dish-washing staff to provide a just-cleaned favorite whisk. My family has a “you cooked, we clean” attitude, which is just a defense in keeping the kitchen habitable, as I am known as a notoriously messy cook (but fast!); (2) Dinner in One also includes recipes for Cake in One! So happy…; and (3) it doesn’t appear that these recipes are one-note. There are surprising finishes and side dishes included that eliminate the fear of muddled-flavor syndrome.
This book has it all and is all well-done. Call me inspired. I’m headed to the kitchen.
From the author of the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, this novel is a compelling two-nighter that left me hoping for a sequel. Ryan deftly combines the historical authenticity of 1942 war-torn England, with the “life goes on” mentality of four women trying to cope with everyday food rationing and shortages.
A BBC radio program, "The Kitchen Front," has announced a cooking contest. The winner will be awarded the coveted position of co-host. Four contestants from Fenley Village have entered. Audrey, a mother of three boys and recent widow, needs to win to keep their home. Mrs. Quince is the head cook at Fenley Hall – the home of Sir Reginald and Lady Gwendoline (Audrey’s estranged sister). She has entered the contest with her helper, Nell. Her motive and outcome are not originally clear. Zelda formerly worked as the sous-chef in many top London kitchens. She now heads the kitchen at the Fenley Pie Factory and strives to be considered a top chef by winning the contest. Zelda also has a secret. And finally, Lade Gwendoline privately wishes to escape her marriage by obtaining a very public and prestigious position as co-host of "The Kitchen Front."
The creativity necessary to win the contest during lean times, is also a fascinating and true depiction of the foraging, back-garden farming, hunting, and substituting required to present a dish for each of the three rounds of the competition. Historically-correct foods “off-ration” are featured on The Kitchen Front that are, to my taste, repugnant: whale, rodents, and pastry made with the dreaded sardine-oil as a substitute for unavailable butter or lard.
The women begin the competition as adversaries, but as their individual circumstances and stories evolve, they end up as a team. And more. A warm, kind, comforting read for the Fall.
I don't remember much humor (other than the ironic Ronald McDonald reference) in Marra’s award-winning A Constellation of Vital Phenomena." So the opening paragraph of Mercury Pictures Presents, hooked me immediately: "And this was where the real Maria stood late one morning in 1941, hands holstered on her hips, watching a pigeon autograph the windshield of her boss's new convertible. She'd like to buy that bird a drink."
After her father was exiled in Mussolini’s Italy, Maria Lagana emigrated with her mother to live with her great aunts in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Many years later, as the US enters World War II, Maria is living on her own and has been promoted to Associate Producer of Hollywood’s Mercury Pictures International under studio head, Artie Feldman (of the new convertible). She navigates the feuds between Artie and his business partner (also his twin brother); disguises language and plot lines for the censors, to gain a Production Code seal of approval for Mercury’s films; and dodges her aunties’ attempts to marry her off.
The chapters in this book travel between time and location and characters, which become the intricate backstories of everything related to Maria. Only in Marra's deft storytelling does a cast of diverse characters –film producers, cameramen, internees, emigres, has-been actors, set designers, architects and felons- come to life as peers. Only in Marra's capable hands do the films -documentary, propaganda, dramedy and satire- spring from the silver screen of Mercury Pictures Presents.
Loved this book.
Maisie Dobbs is hired to investigate attacks on ferry pilots in 1942 Kent, England and a missing American serviceman.
Kirkus Reviews summed it up as follows: “A superb combination of mystery, thriller and psychological study with an emphasis on prejudice and hatred.” Does the last part of that description sound familiar? In the latest installment of Maisie Dobbs, Winspear also weaves together the bullying of Dobbs’ stepdaughter at school because of racial prejudices; and accusations against a Black soldier from America’s segregated troops in 1942 war-torn England. A plot to kidnap Eleanor Roosevelt during her goodwill tour of England draws even more parallels to current issues where the conspiracy “great replacement” theory is again raising its ugly head.
The uplifting part of reading another Maisie Dobbs, is that I always learn something new. During WWII, the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) ferried planes for Britain and included pilots “who were considered unsuitable for… the Royal Air Force… by reason of age, fitness or gender. A unique feature of the ATA was that physical disabilities were ignored if the pilot could do the job…” (Wikipedia). This group of volunteers ferried planes to and from maintenance and ordnance depots and freed up the combat-trained pilots for missions. Another fact -relevant to today’s issues- is that equal pay was mandated for women ATA pilots in 1943! The main plot of A Sunlit Weapon centers around a group of those pilots from America, Britain, and Canada.
As always, I read this book in one sitting. Along with a fascinating mystery, Winspear evokes an historical nostalgia that, whether good or bad, is relatable to current events.
The Lincoln Highway is a joyride. Amor Towles' new Great American Road Novel tails four boys — three 18-year-olds who met in a juvenile reformatory, plus a brainy 8-year-old — as they set out from Nebraska in June, 1954, in an old Studebaker in pursuit of a better future. If this book were set today, their constant detours and U-turns would send GPS into paroxysms of navigational recalculations. But hitch onto this delightful tour de force and you'll be pulled straight through to the end, helpless against the inventive exuberance of Towles' storytelling.
Like his first two novels, The Lincoln Highway is elegantly constructed and compulsively readable. Again, one of the ideas Towles explores is how evil can be offset by decency and kindness on any rung of the socio-economic ladder. His first novel, Rules of Civility, set among social strivers in New York City in 1936, took its inspiration from F. Scott Fitzgerald and its title from George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. His much-loved second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, incorporated nods toward the great Russian writers and shades of Eloise at the Plaza and Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Mostly confined to a single setting — Moscow's luxurious Metropol Hotel — it spanned 32 years under Stalin's grim rule.
Towles' new novel ranges further geographically — from Nebraska's farmland to New York's Adirondacks by way of some of New York City's iconic sites — but its action-packed plot is compressed into just 10 days. The Lincoln Highway, which owes a debt to Huckleberry Finn, revisits American myths with a mix of warm-hearted humor and occasional outbursts of physical violence and malevolence that recall E.L. Doctorow's work, including Ragtime.
The novel begins on June 12, 1954 and ends on the same date, clearly not coincidentally, as A Gentleman in Moscow. When we meet him, Towles' latest hero, Emmett Watson, has been released a few months early from detention in consideration of his father's death, the foreclosure of the family farm, and his responsibility for his 8-year-old brother, Billy. (Billy has been ably taken care of by a neighbor's hard-working daughter, Sally, during Emmett's absence; she's another terrific character.) The kindly warden who drives Emmett home reminds him that what sent him to the Kansas reformatory was "the ugly side of chance," but now he's paid his debt to society and has his whole life ahead of him.
Shortly after the warden drives off, two fellow inmates turn up, stowaways from the warden's trunk — trouble-maker Duchess and his hapless but sweet protegé, Woolly. (In another fun connection for Towles nerds, naïve trust funder Wallace "Woolly" Wolcott Martin is the nephew of Wallace Wolcott from Rules of Civility.)
Eagerness to discover what landed these three disparate musketeers in custody is one of many things that keeps us turning pages. Expectations are repeatedly upended. One takeaway is that a single wrong turn can set you off course for years — though not necessarily irrevocably.
The Lincoln Highway is, among other things, about the act of storytelling and mythmaking. The novel probes questions about how to structure a narrative and where to start; its chapters count down from Ten to One as they build to a knockout climax. Towles' intricately plotted tale is underpinned by young Billy's obsession with a big red alphabetical compendium of 26 heroes and adventurers — both mythical and real — from Achilles to Zorro, though the letter Y is left blank for You (the reader) to record your own intrepid quest.
Billy is determined to follow the Lincoln Highway west to San Francisco, where he hopes to find his mother, who abandoned her family when he was a baby and Emmett was 8. (The number 8 figures repeatedly, a reflection of the travelers' — and life's — roundabout, recursive route.) Whether riding boxcars or "borrowed" cars, Towles' characters are constantly diverted by one life-threatening adventure after another — offering Billy plenty of material for a rousing Chapter Y, once he figures out where to begin. One thing smart Billy comes to realize: He belongs to a long tradition of sidekicks who come to save the day.
"Most of us shell our days like peanuts. One in a thousand can look at the world with amazement," Towles wrote in his first novel. Of course, Towles is drawn to that one in a thousand. His interest is in those whose zeal has not yet been tamped down by what Duchess (the only first-person narrator) describes, with improbable flair for a poorly-educated 18-year-old, as "the thumb of reality on that spot in the soul from which youthful enthusiasm springs." With the exception of Woolly, the teenagers in this novel are remarkably mature by today's standards, and burdened by cares. But at any age, it's the young-at-heart who are most open to amazement — people like Woolly, who may not be cut out for this world but who can appreciate what he calls a "one-of-a-kind of day."
There's so much to enjoy in this generous novel packed with fantastic characters — male and female, black and white, rich and poor — and filled with digressions, magic tricks, sorry sagas, retributions, and the messy business of balancing accounts. "How easily we forget — we in the business of storytelling — that life was the point all along," Towles' oldest character comments as he heads off on an unexpected adventure. It's something Towles never forgets.
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This debut novel captures the location, weather, language and even the smell of the Midcoast of Maine, while delving into a side that visitors don’t see and the residents do not want to think about. Though it is evident at the end of the book’s prologue that this is going to be a crime story, I was hooked on the writing and by an atmospheric lure.
This character-rich novel follows the uneasy, but fascinating interaction between two small-town families: Ed and Stephanie Thatch are a local couple in the restaurant and lobster business; their friend from high school, Andrew has just returned to Damariscotta with his family to teach and coach lacrosse after leaving years earlier to attend Exeter Academy and Dartmouth College. Andrew worked for Ed as a teenager doing grunt work on the Thatch’s wharf; and upon his return to the area, is amazed at the success (money) Ed and Steph (now the mayor of Damariscotta) have amassed. Andrew develops a small obsession of trying to find out what’s behind the Thatch family’s new wealth.
The contrast between the haves and have-nots is apparent from the Amherst Women’s Lacrosse Team schedule, to the lobstermen and the families that cater to the Midcoast’s visitors. The author is from this particular area of Maine, but knows the languages of Lewiston, Portland and Boston as well. He nails it – dead on, with authenticity that results in (possibly unintended) humor. The tragedy in the story isn’t as much about what culminates in the unending wake of a customized lobster boat, as the tragic reality of what has plagued the area and state for years. A great read.
Patterned like a great Ruth Reichl memoir, Tucci recounts highlights from his fascinating life, and the interwoven smattering of recipes are integral to his story. Coincidentally, both authors can be quite hilarious even when dealing with non-hilarious subjects. What is apparent from Taste, is that the author’s heritage, family, career and travel are surrounded by food – discussing it, cooking it and sharing it with everyone he loves.
The recipes included along the way are like Old Home Week: what he eats or drinks with his friends and family. My favorite, because Stanley is an emphatic purist, is the simplicity of Pasta con Aglio e Olio (pasta with garlic and olive oil). It’s just like the recipe from my niece’s study-abroad year in Florence – a go-to meal from her Italian “mama.” And the cocktails !... a classic Negroni and Old-Fashioned are featured – making me wish it was happy hour at 8:00 in the morning. Competing potato recipes compliment his chapter about his (non-Italian) wife’s roasted potato recipe (crunchy on the outside, creamy in the middle). The same recipe that crashed Ina Garten’s website last year and has taken over TikTok.
Stanley was raised in Katonah, Westchester County, NY. Both of his parents were from Italy and he is well-traveled. His love of food and discerning taste are a product of his mother and experiences. These are the facts. His story though reads like a novel and you just can’t wait to see what happens (or who, or where) next. He admittedly name drops fellow actors and friends, but never gratuitously. His acting career takes a back seat in this memoir. His cancer ordeal doesn’t make an appearance until the book is almost over, and again, the most palpable feeling one senses (because he clearly states it), is his depression over his loss of taste and smell - albeit temporary. Because by then he had discovered that food wasn’t just part of his life, it WAS his life. Such an addictive read.
What a terrific debut for author, Tracey Lange! When Sunday Brennan’s car accident on the West Coast compels her to move back to be with her family in Westchester County, New York, it starts a chain of events that snowballs in every direction. No one is spared in her large Irish Catholic family of four grown children, their friends, spouses, father Mickey, and his grandkids. The adult Brennans each hold secrets and they are about to be unraveled.
Denny, her oldest brother, owns Brennan’s Pub with her old boyfriend of eight years, Kale. They are in the middle of expanding to a second location and, unbeknownst to Kale, are out of money. Denny has procured a loan from a dodgy source. Meanwhile, Mickey is making notes for himself to keep from admitting he might have dementia, and he has a hidey-hole with more secrets from his past in Northern Ireland.
The biggest secret is why Sunday left both Kale and her family to move to Los Angeles five years ago. And their deceased mother was partly responsible for this secret, because “nobody needs to know our business.” If that doesn’t sound familiar, you didn’t grow up in a parish neighborhood!
Formulaic, it is not. I was surprised when things came together in an "Aha!" moment, without feeling that it was contrived. For readers who loved Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane, The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo or anyone else that enjoys a good family saga, you’ll read this in one sitting.
A 2021 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Critical/Biographical
“Jacqueline Winspear has created a memoir of her English childhood that is every bit as engaging as her Maisie Dobbs novels, just as rich in character and detail, history and humanity. Her writing is lovely, elegant and welcoming.”—Anne Lamott
Winner of the SIBA Southern Book Prize for Fiction
“I loved it and devoured it with fury, straight to its blazing end.” —Lily King, author of Writers & Lovers
Mix together (vigorously) 2 cups family saga, 1 cup Food Network reality TV, and add a generous pinch of Fanny Flagg-esque characters. With The Chicken Sisters, the author has created the perfect recipe for a deliciously entertaining novel.
A century ago, two sisters had competing fried chicken shacks in small-town Merinac, Kansas. Three generations later, their descendants are still competing. In fact, Amanda grew up working with her mother at Chicken Mimi’s until she married the (now deceased) son of the owner of Chicken Frannie’s and has not been allowed in Chicken Mimi’s since. Each restaurant (one calls itself a shack) has its own character, menu, and a very loyal local
following. Then they are selected to go head-to-head in Food Wars, a nationally televised reality TV series with a prize of $100,000.00. Ladies…. start your ovens.
Adding to the mix is Amanda’s sister, Mae – a Marie Kondo knockoff professional organizer/declutterer. Mae’s career has been derailed in Brooklyn, and she arrives in Kansas to whip her mother’s place (Chicken Mimi’s) into shape for Food Wars. Thus, Chicken Mimi’s pits Mae and her mother against Amanda and her mother-in-law at Chicken Frannie’s. Let the games and irony begin.
As the savvy director of Food Wars stirs the pot for added flavor and drama value, tempers boil over, and several devastating secrets are revealed. Familial relationships seem irreparable – including Amanda’s burgeoning romance with her mother’s new chef and Mae’s seemingly solid marriage.
For readers who loved The Lager Queen of Minnesota (M&E event in 2019), The Chicken Sisters will delight.
Described as a contemporary classic, Beneficence lingers long after you have finished. Tup Senter and his wife Doris work their heritage farm with children Sonny, Dodie, and Beston in rural Maine where hard work is a satisfying day, and for which they are grateful.
A tragedy suffered by the family is the subject of the novel’s sections: Before/After/Here; prescient titles that capture the core of mindsets, rather than the phases of grief. Each of their individual experiences is shaped by this loss and narrated in alternating chapters over an 18-year span during the mid-20 th century. The farm, weather, animals, and nature itself are characters that weave through the emotions of the family tempering or breaking them through the seasons of their recovery.
Hall has crafted painstakingly simple and articulate prose to describe a deeply complex emotional experience. In myriad reviews, the words quiet, luminous, radiant, and transcendent are used repeatedly to describe this first novel. I couldn’t agree more.
Whitaker's breakout novel weaves a crime novel with a western spin and features a self-proclaimed outlaw, 13-year old Duchess Day Radley. The story is based in fictional Cape Haven, a coastal California town in 2005. If a town has a personality, it’s "very Mendocino" in location and demographic. Thirty years prior, a girl was murdered, and teenage Vincent King was convicted as an adult. In present day, Vincent is released from prison, and another murder occurs after his return to Cape Haven. Duchess is related to both victims – Sissy and Star Radley.
The town police chief, “Walk” (Walker), is closely connected to Duchess, her 5-year old brother Robin, the victims, and Vincent King. Walk's personal aspirations and intentions may never have materialized, but he's making it his mission to protect Duchess from herself ...and the town from Duchess.
Through rich character development and a plot with twist and turns, the author has created a story of trust, letting go, and families – the kind that you are born with and, if you’re lucky, the type you acquire. This is a book that is hard to put down… a great read.
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When the Stars Go Dark by bestselling author and friend of McLean & Eakin (multiple events!), Paula McLain has departed from historical fiction (The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun), and dropped a stunning psychological crime novel that is atmospheric in its refereces to a true-life abduction and real experience in the foster care system during similar time periods and locations.
Anna Hart is a successful and experienced missing-persons detective in San Francisco suddenly traumatized by her own parent's-worst-nightmare when her daughter is abducted. Hoping to find anonymity and solace, she eventually moves to Mendocino, the only place she felt at home with her foster parents growing up. But her escape coincides with a recent disappearance, and she is drawn into the investigation (unofficially) by local law enforcement – and another abduction occurs shortly thereafter. As she becomes obsessed with the cases, she feels they could be tied to similar unsolved tragedies from her childhood.
With poetic ease, Paula creates characters with issues, flaws, and strengths they never realized or valued. They feel personal, as does the time and place. Probably because, to an extent, they are. The heart of this story and McLain's writing chops are apparent from the beginning to the end of this book.
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The Searcher is a departure from this prolific author’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Her protagonist, Cal Hooper, is retired from the Chicago Police Department; is partly estranged from his adult daughter; and is not over his semi-recent divorce. Cal has relocated, in search of quiet -in a tiny town in a small country- which he finds in the house he is renovating outside the (fictional) village of Ardnakelty in the West of Ireland. He is taking his time with the house and getting to know his neighbors and town.
Besides the nesting rooks on the edge of his property, Cal senses he is being watched. His watcher finally approaches – a scrappy adolescent named Trey Reddy. Though Trey is drawn in by Cal (or the other way around) and the work on the house, his ulterior motive eventually reveals itself. Trey’s beloved older brother, Brendan, disappeared months ago and Trey needs Cal’s help finding him. Cal is loath to take on exactly what he has tried to escape, but the local garda have been no help to Trey’s beleaguered family. They, and everyone else, seemingly believe Brendan left on his own accord.
As Cal delves into Brendan’s disappearance, his cop instincts seem to fail him - the harmless neighbor, clannish characters down at the local, and even the market owner and her sister are not all what he thought. At the same time, Cal also starts to rebuild a relationship through phone calls with his daughter, eight time zones away, while teaching Trey all of the manly things – refinishing furniture, plastering, carpentry and hunting – that Trey seems to devour. Only when the adolescent’s welfare is threatened, does Cal fully engage in his investigation.
Tana French weaves brutal acts and circumstances through her beautifully literary narratives of the landscape and nature surrounding them. This book is part coming-of-age story, suspense and crime drama, and Western novel all in one. I couldn’t put it down.
Just coming off a turkey coma, one would think a cookbook would be the last thing on my list of books to review. But, this is Ina’s twelfth (!) cookbook with 85 new recipes, and my cravings just adjusted to the upcoming winter season.
The development of Modern Comfort Food was almost prophetic. From her interview with NPR, Garten says that when she started writing, she knew the book was going to come out right before the election, and people would be stressed. "So I thought, why don't I do something about comfort food? But like with a modern twist, and that's how it started. Little did I know that there would be a horrible pandemic, world pandemic. There would be calls for racial justice. There would be the Supreme Court battle. There would be so many layers of stress that we couldn't even begin to imagine. And it's a terrible time for us, but in a nice way, I'm really happy that I was able to give people the tools to make something really comforting for themselves and their families."
And the tools are Ina-ssential. The book includes my favorite parts of her other publications: a charming history, description, or inspiration for each recipe, scrumptious pictures, and invaluable tips. Her criteria for these new recipes? “Familiar, delicious, and soul satisfying.”
Her inspiration for new ideas and methods appears to come from many sources. She admittingly says blogs and social media are a more-frequented and surprising motivation. And she loves to develop knock-off versions of her favorite dishes made by her oldest of friends - restauranteurs and other chefs. Inspired by one of these “besties,” I can’t wait for snow to try the cheddar & chutney grilled cheese and creamy tomato bisque. Yum. The book is a winner.
From the prize-winning author of The Mothers, Brit Bennett has knocked it out of the park with a novel you will not be able to put down. Lauded by National Book Award-winner, Jacqueline Woodson, as the “real thing;” and Booker Prize-winning author, Bernardine Evaristo, as “utterly mesmerizing,” The Vanishing Half is that and much more.
The Vignes twins ran away in 1954 at age 16 from their home in Mallard, a tiny historically strange town of the Deep South. Fourteen years later, one of the twins returns with a daughter in tow, without her sister, along with very little information about what she has done, or more accurately - what’s been done to her, during her absence.
The novel traverses three generations over a period of 50 years and includes births, deaths, love and secrets – all the usual components of a good family saga. And though the missing twin, who passed as white, disappeared, and has continued to live as a white woman in a very white world, should be the crux of the story, the sister who returns to Mallard defines it. Written in six parts with different narrators, all of their relationships are influenced by the twins’ collective memories – their father’s death, struggles at home, and the early days when they ran away from it all. When fate intervenes, the connections pass to their daughters, though no one is sure what is real.
Several scenes from The Vanishing Half are evocative of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, but make no mistake, Bennett has her own unique voice and content. Beautifully written, brutally matter-of-fact at times, and always compassionate, this is a must-read.
On the few occasions where Penny set an Armand Gamache novel somewhere other than Three Pines in Quebec, my first thought was, "NO! Where are Gabri and Ruth? And Rosa the duck (*uck *uck)?" Even though each crime plot is stellar, I thought the humor (humour?) would be lacking. Not at all. In her new novel, the Gamaches go to Paris and Penny’s funny-bone has become even more subtly devastatingly brilliant. You have to read closely at times to pick up the nuanced exchanges between Armand and his former second-in-command, Jean-Guy, but it’s there. Maybe just more French? Speaking of which, apparently there is much condescension by the French for their Québécois counterparts! (Was I the only one who did not know this?)
The family has come together for the birth of another Gamache grandchild in Paris. After a reunion dinner, Armand’s godfather, Stephen, is struck down by a vehicle in an attempted murder, poorly disguised as a random hit-and-run. Stephen remains in a coma, not expected to live. Another meticulously-plotted mystery ensues that pits mentors against mentees, sons against fathers, and casts doubts on everyones’ perceptions of their previously-held beliefs and prior relationships. While the entire family races to identify the crime and solve its intricate components, the novel showcases hidden talents of characters we thought we knew so well: Armand’s wife, Reine-Marie, is an extraordinary researchist, though because of her work at the Bibliothèque et Archives in Montreal, we shouldn’t be surprised; and Daniel, Armand’s son, is a banker, but also a gifted analyst and contributes much to the outcome of the case, when he isn’t fighting his father.
A few poignant reveals took me completely by surprise (tears!). The book ends with everyone coming back to Three Pines, and I mean everyone… I wonder what’s next? All in all, another big win for Louise Penny.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR
"A spectacular novel that only this legend can pull off." -Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST, in The Atlantic
An instant New York Times Bestseller
Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize
A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!
"A thrilling debut that deserves your attention." –Ron Charles, the Washington Post
The critically acclaimed, bestselling author of News of the World and Enemy Women returns to Texas in this atmospheric story, set at the end of the Civil War, about an itinerant fiddle player, a ragtag band of musicians with whom he travels trying to make a living, and the charming young Irish lass who steals his heart.
From the bestselling and award-winning author of The Sparrow comes “historical fiction that feels uncomfortably relevant today” (Kirkus Reviews) about “America’s Joan of Arc”—the courageous woman who started a rebellion by leading a strike against the largest copper mining company in the world.
In July 1913, twenty-five-year-old Annie
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I always like a cookbook that reads like a novel. But WOW. This book is a carefully curated group of compelling, relevant essays about the various forms of rage – righteous, simmering, paralyzing, and passionate. Not all of the essays are political, but from the book’s foreward to the back cover, the correlation between the last election to our current political climate is apparent. What the essays all agree on is one thing: the transformative power of baking.
Many authors cite the distraction, focus, and inspiration derived from the act of baking, after everything else has failed to assuage their rage. Others describe the benefits of baking as a project with tangible results that provides sustenance to self and others – as opposed to the lack of control we feel during each chapter of the never-ending news. Another author describes her rage as the motivator to get back to baking after a horrific accident, reconstructive surgeries, and rehab. And finally, one writer acclaims the science and facts (not fake news) of baking, and recommends it for aspiring STEM students. Most agree that punching dough is cathartic.
The authors have impressive CVs: Katherine Alford ran the NYT’s 4-star kitchen and spent the last 20 years at the Food Network. Kathy Gunst is a James Beard award-winning author, resident chef for NPR’s Here & Now, and at universities worldwide. The contributors they collected for this book are also impressive – journalists, activists, chefs, writers, artists and even a TV producer - including Ruth Reichl, Ani DiFranco, Dorie Greenspan, and Marti Noxon to name only a few.
The recipes are varied and many are cherished tried-and-true comfort foods. The technical tips and how-to sections are placed throughout the book and are relevant for even seasoned bakers. Parents, share the experience of this book with your kids!
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Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown is a multi-tasking, timely, and poignant novel with an unexpected conclusion. Multi-tasking meaning there are two stories, and recipes (!), and each chapter starts with a real, but amazingly awful quote from waaaay back about being a good wife (the quote from the wife of Dale Carnegie was particularly disturbing and taken directly from her book - How to Help Your Husband Get Ahead in His Social and Business Life).
Alice, recently relocated with her husband to the suburbs of NYC in 2018 is one narrator. She is conflicted about the move away from their lives, her career, and The City itself. Nellie is the other narrator, whose story is told through the notes and unsent letters from the 1950s in a cookbook found in the basement. Alice turns the recipes in this book into a project, while seemingly working on the novel that is her new career. As Nellie’s life and secrets unfold, Alice’s relationship with her husband deteriorates.
This relevant, quirky, and surprising (shocking!) novel ties two generations of women with different issues together and is a cautionary tale for modern relationships. Loved this book - it is a page turner!
Pulitzer Prize Finalist | New York Times Bestseller | A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick | A New York Times Book Review Notable Book | TIME Magazine's 100 Must-Read Books of the Year
#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams successfully portrays the roles of the very rich that seasonally inhabit a small island in Long Island Sound and the year-round immigrant residents who serve them. Their story and secrets are revealed by Bianca, from a working class Portuguese family, and Miranda – whose widowed mother has married into the elite Fisher family.
In this instant New York Times bestseller and “multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant” (People), two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present are explored as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world from #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner.
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From the author of A Place at the Table and A Soft Place to Land, an “intense, complex, and wholly immersive” (Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author) multigenerational novel that explores the complex relationship between two very different women and the secrets they bequeath to their daughters.
Eve Whalen, privileged child of an old-mone
A National Bestseller!
“The perfect pick-me-up on a hot summer day.”
“[A] charmer of a tale. . . Warm, witty and--like any good craft beer--complex, the saga delivers a subtly feminist and wholly life-affirming message.”
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Read with Jenna Book Club Pick as Featured on Today • “Everything a romantic comedy should be: witty, relatable, and a little complicated.”—People
Beloved heroine Maisie Dobbs, “one of the great fictional heroines” (Parade), investigates the mysterious murder of an American war correspondent in London during the Blitz in a page-turning tale of love and war, terror and survival.
When Catherine Saxon, an American correspondent reporting on the war in Europe, is found murdered in her London digs, news of her dea
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey just made my personal Top-10 as in, it has EVERYTHING – a tense but poignant storyline, nature and geographical elements in their most dazzling and brutal states, historical references, native mythical influences, fascinating and noble characters even with their flaws. And love, loss and redemption. Really, it’s a book for anyone to savor.
By the author of The Snow Child (a Pulitzer finalist), it is a fictional account of an Alaskan exploratory expedition funded by the US Military in 1885 to map the Wolverine and Yukon river territories. Led by war hero and newlywed Colonel Allen Forrester, the small group is joined sporadically through their arduous journey by trappers, native tribal guides and possibly a mythical creature whose story spans decades. Their deteriorating health becomes secondary as reality begins to erode with each harrowing encounter, storm and mountain pass.
Back in Fort Vancouver Barracks and in desperate need of a diversion, the Colonel’s wife, Sophie, learns to use a camera and develop film to capture her passion for the surrounding natural elements. As she bucks the traditional role in the military wives hierarchy, Sophie’s housekeeper/companion is recruited to be her assistant (work she welcomes and for which she is well-suited), as her work eventually achieves acclaim and publishing rights.
This work of historical fiction is in epistolary format and provides a “you are there” quality. It expands the disparate voices and impressions of events through correspondence, journal entries, military reports and news articles. The book is peppered throughout with fascinating pictures and maps.
It is apparent that the author’s roots, heart and current home are in Alaska; and that the painstaking tasks of collection and research for this masterpiece were a work of love.
WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller, this majestic, stirring, and widely praised novel from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, the story of a family on a journey through rural Mississippi, i
The #1 New York Times bestseller!
“Witty, wise, and tender. It's a marvel.” —Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train and A Slow Fire Burning
Winner of the Southern Book Prize for Literary Fiction
Named a Best Book of 2017 by the Chicago Public Library and the American Library Association
“Wiley Cash reveals the dignity and humanity of people asking for a fair shot in an unfair world.”
Winner of the Southern Book Prize for Literary Fiction
Named a Best Book of 2017 by the Chicago Public Library and the American Library Association
“Wiley Cash reveals the dignity and humanity of people asking for a fair shot in an unfair world.”
Are you done with your holiday leftovers? Are you not quite ready to hit the Cooking Light series per your well-intentioned New Year's resolution? Are your tastebuds primed for a 180 degree turn from roasted turkey/beef/pork?As the luckiest girl in the world this holiday season, I was treated to a stellar meal at Nopalito restaurant in San Francisco. Even luckier, the Nopalito cookbook was festively wrapped with my name on it under the Christmas tree.This is rustic, regional, Mexican cuisine at its finest. I have spent many enjoyable hours studying this cookbook. The author, Gonzalo Guzman, was originally a line cook at Nopa restaurant. Apparently the owners were so impressed with his communal staff meals, they conceived Nopalito as their next venture, with Guzman as head chef and partner of the two locations.Ah, but this is not supposed to be a restaurant review, so back to the book!First, the heartfelt preface (by Stacy) introduces the reader to the author, his love for his homeland, and his peers' love for him. The introduction continues his history and principles. Next, the book is informative - some history, sourcing, methodology and an extreme glossary of ingredients (fascinating!). It is relevant and timely as many of us try harder to source locally and seasonally. And finally, it is passionate and the recipes induce mouth-watering cravings. The priceless house recipes included in this book are the foundation of many of the finishes (queso fresco, crema and pickled red onions) or stand-alone items (spiced peanuts). Like other passionate cookbooks, the authenticity of the ingredients (yes, you will embrace lard) and methods can be intimidating, but substitutions are included. And depending on the recipe you choose, the list of ingredients is relatively short and not complicated at all.I feel ready to re-create the BEST MEAL EVER: carnitas with cabbage and carrot salad, tortillas, and tomatillo salsa. But even if you decide not to make your own masa or tortillas, the salsa recipes included toward the back are worth the price of the book alone!
The Very Marrow of Our Bones, by Christine Higdon is a debut novel that spans 40-plus years in the lives of the Parsons family. In 1967, two women disappear from the town of Fraser Arm outside of Vancouver, British Columbia - Bette Parsons is the married mother of five and Alice McPhee is her neighbor. Bette’s 10-year-old daughter, Lulu (Louise), finds a note addressed to her father that reads, “Wally, I will not live in a tarpaper shack for the rest of my life. Love, Bette.” Lulu tells no one about the note. Subsequent investigations yield no results and the town and families are left wondering if the two disappearances involve foul-play, or were intentional on the parts of the women, or are even related.
The events leading up to Bette’s disappearance, along with the stories of her childrens’ lives in the aftermath are told in randomly chaptered time periods and from different points of view. Extended relatives and friends become family as everyone struggles with the hole left by Bette. The observations of the the local preacher’s daughter, Doris Tenpenny, are particularly astute and she becomes one of the family’s strongest allies when her instincts about another neighbor send off alarms. And when the family comes together for an event 40 years later, the emotional impact on each grown child is apparent and diverse.
A recent Kirkus Review states, “There are gaspworthy moments from the beginning to the very last chapter” and calls the book, “An ambitious debut novel that will make you cry, cringe, and laugh.” I wholehearterly agree – this is a great read!
A delicious and sharply funny page-turner about “innocent” Americans abroad in 1950s Siena, Italy.
An evocative and wildly absorbing novel about the Winters, a family living in New York City’s famed Dakota apartment building in the year leading up to John Lennon’s assassination
Have you seen all of the episodes of Cook Like a Pro with Ina on Food Network? (click for more info.) Much to my delight, the book includes even more tips and entertaining shortcuts. As always, beautiful full-color photographs are included, which are so helpful when you want to see what the darn thing is supposed to look like, right? I think the key descriptor in most of the book reviews regarding the never-before-published treasure trove (Food & Wine) of recipes (80+), is “dependable” – an attribute I want when I’m cooking for company.
The book is organized in categories (drinks, salads, dinners, etc.) and includes a chapter of awesome breakfast dishes. The "Pro Basics" chapter includes instructions for making your own ricotta (for the pure at heart) and homemade stock for soups and sauces. The short-rib recipe is delicious and our family is making the shells with broccoli rabe and pancetta during Christmas week with one of the many featured salads. Hungry yet?
Whether you’re adding to your Barefoot Contessa library (click here to view them all) or just want a terrific stand-alone, this is more than a cookbook for Ina fans! And if Santa doesn’t bring you a copy, use that giftcard and gift yourself this book.
New York Times Bestseller • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, O: The Oprah Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek
This charming, irresistible debut novel set in London during World War II about a young woman who longs to be a war correspondent and inadvertently becomes a secret advice columnist is “a jaunty, heartbreaking winner” (People)—for fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Lilac Girls.
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“A powerful, urgent novel that wields issues of gender and class like a blade. . . . This intergenerational novel asks hard questions about who we are, who we can become, and what awaits on the other side of our becoming.
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD “5 UNDER 35” NOMINEE • NEW YORK’S “ONE BOOK, ONE NEW YORK” PICK
NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST • BOOKER PRIZE FINALIST • From the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Namesake comes an extraordinary novel, set in India and America, that tells the story of two brothers bound by tragedy, a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past, a country torn by revolution, and a love th
“A quick-witted, wry sendup of the advertising industry and corporate culture…A clear-eyed, sympathetic story about complex family ties and the possibility of healing” (The Washington Post).
Finbar Dolan is lost and lonely. Except he doesn’t know it.
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.
In his phenomenal debut novel—a mesmerizing literary thriller about the bond between two brothers and the evil they face in a small North Carolina town—author Wiley Cash displays a remarkable talent for lyrical, powerfully emotional storytelling.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
EDGAR AWARD WINNER * ANTHONY AWARD WINNER
BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE ACCIDENT
Can we ever escape our secrets?
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."
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!