Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rabbi Aviva Cohen is Solving Murders Again!

Unleavened Dead by Rabbi Ilene Schneider

Those of you who have read Ilene Schneider’s first book – Chanukah Guilt – will remember our beloved Rabbi Aviva Cohen. She’s the unruly-haired, rotund rabbi of the small, Walford New Jersey synagogue 'Mishkan Or,' who has been divorced twice, and has a lesbian niece Trudy, who now has two children with her partner Sherry. What’s more, mysterious deaths have been coming to her attention, and she just can’t keep from trying to solve them – much to the chagrin of her ex-husband Steve who’s been working in Walford as the interim Police Commissioner.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Name, Rank and 8200

Spies, Inc.: Business Innovation from Israel's Masters of Espionage by Stacy Perman

Whatever you may think about Israel, you have to admit that from its inception, the odds were against it. You also must give it credit for surviving while being outnumbered by over 100 to 1 from the onset. Under those conditions, the only way to keep afloat is to outsmart your enemy, and that's what this book is about. The major focus here is on the technological side - that being things like computers, electronics and advanced weaponry - and how one division in particular had a large hand in it all. That unit is called 8200 which is part of the Intelligence Division of the IDF.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The REAL Chocolate Wars

The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars by Joël Glenn Brenner

A friend gave me this book to read since she knows my deep devotion to chocolate. She was reading it for its marketing and business information. Well, anything about chocolate must be interesting, but business and marketing...? Honestly, despite the topic, I didn’t expect myself to get through more than a page or two. However, much to my surprise, after reading the first few pages, I suddenly found that I couldn’t put this book down. Now, I never had this type of an experience with a non-fiction book before. And what’s more, almost everyone who reads this book will find something out that they didn’t know before - whether it's about chocolate or business or industry.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Women who Orbited Fame

Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman.

In the notes at the end of this book, author Megan Mayhew Bergman informs us that, "The stories in this collection are born of fascination with real women whose remarkable lives were reduced to footnotes." She also says that she's "fascinated by risk taking and the way people orbit fame." Bergman herself has taken a risk by writing a collection of short stories, but I think she pulled it off without a hitch.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Science of Love

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman may be a genius when it comes to science and genetics, or anything else he decides to study, but he's clueless about two things: women and his Asperger's Syndrome. Despite this, he's determined to find himself a wife in the only way he knows how to do anything - like a scientist. However, there's no scientific way to chart the course of true love, but that's not going to stop Don from trying.

Touted as the "feel good" book of 2013, this book intrigued me even before it hit the shelves. Unfortunately, the publishers decided I wasn't the best type of reviewer to send an advance copy to, so I had to wait until after its publication, so I could buy it for myself. The question is, was it worth it?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Empty Nest and/or Wishful Thinking

Second Honeymoon by Joanna Trollope

Edie is an actor, but raising her three children Matthew, Rosa and Ben, made her put most of her career on hold. After the last of her children finally moved out, that nest seemed suddenly very, very empty. This doesn't bother her husband Russell; he's thrilled he'll finally have Edie to himself. Well, as much to him as her career will allow, that is. Of course, Edie's sister Vivian isn't going to help much, since she's been clingy since her divorce from Max.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Fry-ed Life

The Fry Chronicles: an Autobiography by Stephen Fry

This is Stephen Fry's second installment of his autobiography. The meat of this book takes place during his most formative years – those being while he was at Cambridge and the years afterwards as he was making his name in print, radio, television and on the stage. Once the world started to sit up and take notice, his talents as a comedian and an actor and a writer brought him fame and fortune.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Scent for Infatuation

Nectar: A Novel of Temptation by Lily Prior

This novel is almost pure fantasy, as opposed to this author's first work, which was mostly reality-based. While the story and people and events in "La Cucina" could actually have existed (despite some of the unusual bits), unless there's some amazingly missed documentation out there, it is doubtful that many of the characters and proceedings in this story could actually happen in real life. However, this isn't some type of Tolkien or Pratchett-like fantasy, nor something from outer space. No, this is more like a fairytale, complete with a moral! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Army for Enlightenment

The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphaël Jerusalmy

Author Jerusalmy introduces this book as follows:

"Born at the end of the Middle Ages, François Villon is the first modern poet. He is the author of the famous Ballad of the Hanged and Ballad of Dead Ladies. But Villon was also a notorious brigand. In 1462, at the age of thirty-one, he was arrested, tortured, and sentenced “to be hanged and strangled.” On January 6, 1463, the Parliament quashed the sentence and banished him from Paris. Nobody knows what happened to him subsequently…"

Monday, December 15, 2014

A novel that will stick with you

We are all made of Glue by Marina Lewycka

Georgina is in a bit of a mess. Her husband has left her for another woman, her daughter hardly speaks to her, her son is going through a mid-teen crisis, she can’t seem to get anywhere with her steamy romance novel, and she’s stuck writing articles about adhesives for a trade magazine. Just when she thought things couldn’t get worse She meets Naomi Shapiro, a lonely widow living with lots of cats in a run-down and filthy mansion who needs her help. Despite her better judgment, Georgina does get involved, and that's when the trouble begins.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Connecting Two Lives Lived 50 Years Apart

The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

Alexandra is stuck in rural England, living at home, sharing her bedroom with siblings again, after being sent down from university for going through the wrong door – an act for which she refuses to apologize. But it is the mid-1950s and she’s ready to make her mark on the world. So, she packs up and makes her way to Soho in London – with little more than the card a stranger gave her, and the new name he gave her – Lexie. Fast forward to the present and we find Ted has just weathered almost losing the woman he loves, Elina, while she was giving birth to their son. Although Elina is on the mend, something is happening to Ted that seems both strange and sinister. This is the story of how these very diverse stories, set 50 years apart, come together.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Up Close and Undivided Attention

Divisadero by Michael Ondaatje

Here is a book for which it is almost impossible to write a plot synopsis. Like many of Ondaatje's other works, this doesn't have narrative that follows conventional literary patterns or rules. Although there is an overall linear aspect to the novel, the general feeling is more of a shifting spiral. I'm sorry if this doesn't make sense, but I can't help what I feel about a piece of art.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Tasty Reading

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg

For those of you who aren't familiar with either the movie or the book, this is the story of the events that happened to a group of people who lived in the town of Whistle Stop, Alabama in the 1930's. One of its female residents - Mrs. Threadgoode, tells these stories many years later, to Evelyn - a woman who makes friends with Mrs. Threadgoode while visiting her husband's relative in the same old-age home. These stories, filled as they are with love, sex, intrigue, mystery and conflict, so intrigue Evelyn, they actually end up affecting her life as well. We also see these stories told by other past residents - through snippets of newsletters and flashback vignettes.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

My Favorite Books of 2014 - the Year of the Curmudgeon

Looking back over this past year, it seems that many of the best-loved books that came out in 2014 featured protagonists who are, essentially, grumpy old men. While almost all of them hardly ever stop frowning, reading about them will certainly put a smile on your face (or bring a tear to your eye). Here is my countdown of the top five 2014 curmudgeons, plus some non-grumpy books with women I also gave five stars to in 2014 (links to my full reviews are in the titles). 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bringing Worlds Together

The Distance Between Us by Maggie O'Farrell

Jake's single mother gave birth to him, and raised him in Hong Kong. In 1993, Jake was caught in the Chinese New Year's crush, resulting in an almost fatal injury for the girl he was dating. In London, at the same time, Stella thinks she's just seen someone from her troubled past who could reveal her dark secret. Not long after these two events, both Stella and Jake find themselves in a fancy B&B in Kildoune, just outside Inverness, Scotland. There, Jake is looking to find answers about his mother's past as well as his father, but Stella only wants to hide away from hers. Their discovery of each other, along with their parallel journeys of self-discovery is the basis of Maggie O'Farrell's third novel. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Abandonment and Devotion

Neither Here Nor There by Miriam Drori

Esty is 19 and unmarried, and that's practically an "old maid" in Jerusalem's Haredi (ultra-orthodox) community. However, the reason she hasn't agreed to marry anyone is that she knows the Haredi life is not for her. Once she's married, she might be trapped forever. Gathering up all her courage, she leaves her whole life and family behind. What she finds is a world that contradicts everything her community ever taught her, not the least of which is about falling in love.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Slice of Glasgow's Darker Corners

The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh

This story has nothing to do with motion picture film editing; this is about crime, pornography, erotica, sex, and money with a mystery thrown in for good measure. Rilke is an auctioneer for a small and struggling Glasgow auction house, commissioned to empty out the home of the late (and wealthy) Roddy McKindless. Nothing seems out of the ordinary until Rilke discovers the attic. There he finds a huge and valuable collection of erotica. While this isn't terribly strange on the face of it, he then finds some homemade "snuff porn" (ones that look like murders). This motivates him to investigate the darker side of the illusive McKindless. Rilke's own promiscuous homosexuality and dabbling with drugs mix in with this investigation, leading him into some of the darker corners of Glasgow. That's it in a nutshell, but there's far more in this plot than meets the eye. And you must admit that this is an excellent basis for one twisty ride of a thriller.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Making of a Remarkable Woman

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant

Addie Metsky (nee Baum) was born in Boston to Jewish immigrants in 1900. She's now 85 and her granddaughter Ava wants to know how she became the woman she is today. This is her story, and it will surprise you.

I'm quickly becoming a big fan of historical fiction. I love the way it transports me to another time and place. If it has a Jewish theme, that's certainly going to catch my attention. This is why I asked for this book. Of course, the story of the daughter of Jewish immigrants to America isn't new territory by a long shot. In fact, many would dismiss this book immediately based solely on this blurb. That Anita Diamant, a well-known author, wrote this is certainly one selling point. The question is does this book live up to its author's name?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Mother and a Mystery

The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton

When Jennifer Lewis gets a call from her daughter in the middle of the night, she knows something has gone terribly wrong. Now she has to go to Spain to free her daughter of murder charges, and it could take everything in Jennifer's power to save her, if she can.

At the heart of this story is a murder. Emma, an exchange student in Spain, is accused and arrested for the murder of a man who Emma claims tried to rape her. It is only after Jennifer gets to Spain that some elements of Emma's story start to sound questionable. Now Jennifer has to figure out what is true, what is a lie and how to free her daughter.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Taste of Passion

La Cucina by Lily Prior

They say that authors like Laura Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate) and Joanne Harris (Chocolat, Five Quarters of the Orange) invented the genre of "Cuisine Romance" or "culinary fiction" novels. If this is true, then with her first novel, "La Cucina," Lily Prior took this genre to heights that none of them ever dreamed they could reach. 

The story of this book, set in Sicily, is very simple. Rosa Fiore lives in a small Sicilian village. When the love of her life disappears, it is obvious that his refusal to marry someone other than Rosa led to his murder. Broken hearted, Rosa leaves her family farm in Castiglione and goes to Palermo. There she becomes a librarian, who feeds her gaping heart with her the finest of Sicilian cuisine – made by her own hands, and with all her pent up ardor. Then one day an English chef comes to the library to research the history of Sicily's gastronomic delights, but apparently Rosa is on the menu for dessert! 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So fascinating, it should be outlawed!

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje

With this book, Michael Ondaatje (author of "The English Patient") brings us a unique hybrid of poetry and prose, mixed with both historical fact and fiction based on the true-life story of the famous American outlaw William Bonney, better known as “Billy the Kid.” Already from this little bit of information, you can tell that this is not a book that follows any usual format or structure. Therefore, there is no real “plot” to this book, and there is no linear story here either. Instead, you get more of an account of a small period in one infamous person’s life. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An Ex-Lover Ghost Story?

My Lover’s Lover by Maggie O'Farrell

Sinead is – according to Marcus – “no longer with us.” That means that the room Sinead had in Marcus’ flat is now vacant, and Lily moves in. The question is, what else does all that mean – to both Lily and her budding feelings for Marcus?

If Maggie O'Farrell's second novel "My Lover's Lover" is supposed to be her weakest work, then perhaps anyone interested in her work should start with this one, since it is far from weak in my eyes. This is the story of three people - Lily, Marcus and Sinead. After a chance meeting at a party, Lily impulsively moves out of her mother's home into Marcus' extra room after he mentions he's looking for another flat mate. This is because - as Marcus regretfully puts it - Sinead is "no longer with us". But as Lily becomes more involved with Marcus, sinister things begin to happen around the flat, and the other roommate - Marcus' best friend Aiden - is equally as mysterious about Sinead as Marcus.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Cast and Curse of Genius

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

The name of Auguste Rodin is synonymous with the emotionally charged sculptures he created, and practically everyone recognizes his iconic "Thinker." However, far fewer people know the name or the work of Camille Claudel, his student and the woman who shocked the art world of Paris, because of her gender, her own incredible talent, the love affair she had with her mentor and teacher and finally, because of her mental instability.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Mills of Love

Adore: A Novella by Doris Lessing

Lil and Roz have been best friends since they were little girls. Their respective sons have followed suit, and now it looks like their granddaughters are following the same path. All this sounds like the epitome of perfection, and that's exactly the exterior they want everyone to see.

I am ashamed to say that I never read anything by Doris Lessing before. This seems strange because, as a person and as an author, there was much I admired about her. Despite this, I failed at my attempt to read her "Diaries of Jane Somers," the two stories from the 80s she wrote under a pseudonym. That I never attempted to read Lessing again is to my detriment. Thankfully, this novella piqued my interest to try again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What is and what is not

This Should be Written in the Present Tense by Helle Helle

The publishers of this book offer the following teaser: "This should be written in the present tense. But it isn’t. Dorte should be at uni in Copenhagen. But she’s not. She should probably put some curtains up in her new place. And maybe stop sleeping with her neighbor's boyfriend. Perhaps things don’t always work out the way they should." To this, I only would add "or do they?"

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Protections and Professions

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis

The Israeli Government has decided to pull out of a large block of West Bank settlements with the hopes that this grand gesture can kick-start the peace process. The famous refusnik and leader of the Russian Immigrant party, Minister Baruch Kotler, is adamantly opposed to this and refuses to keep quiet about his opposition, and even blackmailing him about his love affair won't shut him up. To avoid the onslaught of the impending scandal, he takes his mistress to Yalta in the Crimea. There he chances upon Volodya Tankilevich, the man whose betrayal to the KGB that led to Kotler's 13-year imprisonment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Precious... but that's about all

The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith

Mme Ramotswe is a female detective in Botswana, the only one there until Mr. Buthelezi arrived, claiming it as "man's" work. Mme Ramotswe isn't convinced and nor is her assistant, Mme Makutsi, who graduated top of her Secretarial College class. However, small towns don't have much call for private detectives, so when Mme Ramotswe gets a particularly delicate new case, the customer wants only Mme Ramotswe's help. That means Mme Makutsi needs to find other things to fill her days and increase her bank balance (which might also help her find a husband). Helping with the clerical work for the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, the garage below their offices, doesn't earn her much, and so she establishes the Kalahari Typing School for Men. When another case comes to the "#1 Ladies Detective Agency" via the unhappy customer Mr. Buthelezi, things start getting complicated.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

That which was gone for those that remain

The Living by Léan Cullinan

Working on the website for the small publishing house Bell Books is hardly an exciting life. Even so, since it is Cate's first job after graduating Dublin's Trinity College, there is no reason for her to balk about it. She has her college friends and her choir - Carmina Urbana - to keep her busy and entertained after a boring day at work. Then Eddie MacDevitt's memoire manuscript comes in, and strange things begin to happen. Her boss is hiding the book from everyone, there's that dark car Cate keeps seeing, that new British tenor in the choir who is so secretive, and even her family are being unusually guarded. Surely, the meanderings of some ex-activist (who knew her uncle, and her boss, back in the day) can't be all that hush-hush, even if there are still people who want him dead. This is "The Living" by Léan Cullinan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Best Laid Schemes and “Rancid Clichés״

The Escape of Malcolm Poe by Allison Burnett

Malcolm Poe is turning 50 and is unhappy, but this isn't a recent development. He's wanted to get away from Louise since very shortly after they met. Then she got pregnant and well, one thing led to marriage, four children, and the death of his only son along with everything else that got in the way of writing a literary masterpiece. Now that his girls are almost all out of the house, and he stopped taking his anti-depressants, he can finally plan his escape. To this, Robert Burns would have said, "The best laid schemes of Mice and Men oft go awry, and leave us nothing but grief and pain, for promised joy!"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Portrait of an Artist

Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale

To try to describe the plot of Patrick Gale's novel "Notes on an Exhibition" is as difficult a task as to try to explain a piece of abstract art. In fact, this novel is less of a story than it is a portrait of a personality and the life around her. The action of this book revolves around Rachel Kelly, an artist who came from Canada and lived most of her life in Cornwall. What's more, Rachel is bipolar (manic-depressive), and this affects not only her own outlook on life, but also all those around her as well as her art. With nothing is truly obvious from the outset of this book, the full story is only revealed once you've finished reading the last page.

Friday, September 26, 2014

When Souls Collide

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Alma Singer is almost 15 years old. She was named after every girl in a book called "The History of Love." Alma believes that she can find the real Alma from the book. She doesn't know is who Leo Gursky is, that he was the real author of this book, that he's in New York or that he's never stopped loving Alma Mereminski, the woman he wrote about 60 years before. Leo Gursky is a survivor - he survived the Holocaust, Alma leaving for America and even finding out that the woman he loves is married to another. What Leo doesn't know is that his book, "The History of Love" also survived the trip from Poland to South America without him, was translated from Yiddish into Spanish, and although very few people read it, is now being translated into English by Alma Singer's mother.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Plowing Through the Family Problems

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - Marina Lewycka

Nicolai is an 86-year-old immigrant from the Ukraine, living in Peterborough, England, who has been a widower for about two years. The loss of his wife was a blow to him, but he has begun coping. One way is by writing his book - A Short History of Tractors. He's writing it in Ukrainian, of course, but he's also translating it into English. In fact, everything seemed to be going fine until he told his two daughters, Nadezhada and Vera, that he was getting married to a woman more than half his age and hardly knows, who is on her way back to England with her young son. This isn't a crime, especially with life so difficult in the Ukraine and if her son really is the genius his mother makes him out to be, a superior education in England is something any mother would want. Finally, having someone around to care for an aging parent can't be so horrid. It seems there should have been few objections from his daughters. Everything will be fine, right? Well, not with a woman like Valentina, it won't!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stories that reveal much but say little

White Tiger on Snow Mountain by David Gordon

I've always believed that short stories are far too under-appreciated. However, I continue to live in hope that since Alice Munro received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature for her career of writing only short stories, more people will become interested in and have respect for this format. I'm pleased to say that David Gordon's book reminded me just how fascinating the art of short stories can be.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Masters of Misogyny

The War on Women in Israel: How Religious Radicalism is Smothering the Voice of a Nation by Elana Maryles Sztokman

When I began reading this book, I was truly hoping that I wouldn't be learning anything new. I thought I was fully aware of how the Ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) parties manipulated the governments they've sat in coalitions with. I thought I already grasped the significance of their dealings and wielding of their disproportionate power, which crept into almost every area our lives. After all, I've lived here for over 35 years, and I don't shy away from the news. In fact, I did know quite a lot, mostly because I've been involved with some of the organizations and people fighting to overcome these inequities. However, Sztokman's book made me realize that even I had some gaps in my knowledge of just how dire the situation has become.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Take the Time to Travel with This Book!

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This is such a well-known book it is almost redundant to bother summarizing the plot - especially since they made a movie out of it (which I refuse to watch). However, for the uninformed, this is the story of Claire and Henry. Claire is an ordinary girl but Henry has a genetic condition. No, he isn't dying, he just sometimes disappears, only to show up at another time and place in his own life - either his past or his future. When Claire first meets Henry, he was 36 and she was six, and this is their love story.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cauliflower Gratin vs. Trout Amandine

The Author and Me by Eric Chevillard

This is more of a dialog between the author and his protagonist than a straightforward story. In the story part, we have a man speaking to a woman, telling his tale of woe because someone brought him a cauliflower gratin instead of the trout amandine that he asked for. Inserted into the text, as asides to the story, the author adds footnotes to help the reader compare the author to his protagonist.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Consequences of a Hand Job

The Fourth Hand by John Irving

Patrick Wallingford is an unusually attractive man but only a second-rate television news reporter who never seems to get the really good stories. Unfortunately, he becomes a headline himself when a lion bites his hand off during the filming of a piece on a circus in India. After that incident, his career takes an unexpected turn, as does his overly-steamy sex-life. when a hand surgeon offers to give him a hand transplant, his life gets turned upside-down because the donor hand has "strings attached" in more ways than one!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What is a "Portrait of America?"

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

The Berglunds, Patty and Walter, are a typical suburban couple. This is their story, told from their early beginnings throughout their lives. The Berglunds live in a home they've renovated in a run-down neighborhood just outside St. Paul Minnesota. Soon others from the gentrification crowd join their surroundings, they bring two children (a son and daughter) into the world, and the years go by. The problem is, what starts out as a budding, happy, middle-class family, slowly becomes four individuals that can't recognize any resemblances among them.

Friday, August 29, 2014

No bones about it; this is a lovely book!

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

When George Harvey raped and murdered Suzie Salmon, she was only 14 years old. He did this in a room he dug out underneath the frozen cornfields. The story here, told from Suzie's point of view after she is dead, are her observations of life on earth.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Very Carefully, Apparently

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper

Two years after Doug and Hailey were married, Hailey died in a plane crash, leaving Doug her home in the suburbs, her angry son who doesn't want to live with his father because of his new trophy wife, a large settlement from the airline and Doug's life in a shambles. That was a year ago, it's time to move on, or so his family seems to think; but how can he?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Flavored for Deception

Sweetness #9: A Novel by Stephen Eirik Clark

David Leveraux's first job is to test the toxicity "The Nine" an artificial sweetener. When he discovers adverse reactions in monkeys and rats combined with the company's cover up, he loses his job and has a nervous breakdown. His recovery comes through another job - this time in the field he studied for, as a flavorist - the food chemist responsible for developing better tasting food additives. With only rare twinges of guilt, he watches as "The Nine" sweeps the world. Maybe he was wrong back then, or was he?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

That Which Emerges from Her Cocoons

The Behaviour Of Moths (or The Sister) by Poppy Adams

Take two estranged sisters, reunited after 47 years and of course, things aren't going to be comfortable and breezy. Put them in the stately home they grew up in, which is now a dilapidated mansion that one sister has stayed in all this time, and you know someone is hiding something - if not both of them. Poppy Adams begins her novel with the older sister Virginia (known as Ginny) nervously waiting for Vivien's long awaited arrival, and already you can see this visit isn't going to be a loving and joyful reunion.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rapture, Ecstasy, and Bliss from Your Kitchen

How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

The difference between cooking and baking is that the latter is a science. I've even heard it called chemistry for the kitchen. In truth, that's a good analogy because baking a cake or cookies isn't something you can just do without some kind of formula. This is why if you like to bake, having cake cookbooks on your shelves is practically essential. The one cook who makes even the simplest dessert seem like gourmet ecstasy is Nigella Lawson.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Sparkle and its Tarnish

The Objects of Her Affection by Sonya Cobb

If it hadn't been for that mortgage scam, the life Sophie dreamed of for her husband and two kids would have been exactly what she missed as a child - anchored and safe. But with her freelance web design work all but dried up and Brian's preoccupation with trying to procure a rare candlestick for the museum, she's going to have to find a way to fix it, and as usual, all on her own. When she almost accidentally takes a valuable mirror from the museum, she starts on a spiral that could ruin everything for her, her home and everyone she loves.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beneath the Black Hats and the Wigs

Invisible City by Julia Dahl

The police just found a naked woman's body in a Brooklyn scrap yard, and that's news. So the paper sends their newest stringer, Rebekah Roberts, to get the story. When she gets there, she finds herself in the midst of the exact same Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community her mother returned to when she abandoned Rebekah as a little girl. While getting the scoop on the murdered woman is her job, finding out about her own mother is off the clock. Rebekah's ambition to become a real reporter is tempered with the unease and possibility of solving her own mystery, her mother's 20 years of silence.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Steaming Open a Family's Pandora's Box

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

On the morning that the 1976 heat in London was about to hit over 90oC for the 10th day in a row, Robert Riordan went out to buy a newspaper - just as he did every morning. Only this time, he didn't come home to the freshly baked Irish soda bread his wife Gretta made. As soon as Gretta figures out something is wrong, she calls her son Michael Francis. But his increasing problems at home prevent him from coming round right away. Her daughter Monica is more concerned about winning over her two new stepchildren than her father's disappearance, and Aiofe, Gretta's youngest is all the way over in New York. When it finally becomes obvious that this isn't just tardiness, all three children come together to help find their father - despite any differences they've had in the past. While looking for him, they uncover some painful information about themselves and the past.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Early 20th century American Romeo and Juliette

Marching to Zion by Mary Glickman

Magnus Bailey fell in love with Minerva Fishbein the minute he scooped this flaming haired child out of her sorrowful father's arms, to help them off the boat in St. Louis. However, Magnus didn't know how much in love he was until it was too late. With all his business savvy and aplomb, could Magnus figure out a way for a Black man and a Jewish woman to live together in peace? This is the story of "Marching to Zion" by Mary Glickman.

Get Roped into this Story

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

This is the story about a man called Quoyle. That's an unusual name; it means "a coil of rope." Already with the naming of this character, author Annie Proulx suggests his life is a tangled one. As the book opens, we read:
"Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns.

"Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing. He ate prodigiously, liked a ham knuckle, buttered spuds."

Friday, August 8, 2014

Get Kissed by Kate and her Stories!

Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn

Usually, I don't read non-fiction and biographies are often iffy since you can never tell how much of it is true and how much is rumor or gossip. As for autobiographies, well, most non-writers with interesting lives usually need a ghostwriter, which often produce stilted and/or bombastic volumes. If they don't take a ghostwriter, they sound amateurish at best or boring at worst. Not so with "Me: Stories of My Life" by Katharine Hepburn.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Fictional Dismantling of the British Royal Family

The Queen and I by Sue Townsend

In a fictional 1992, the Republican Party sweeps the general election and their first act is to dismantle the monarchy and put the entire royal family into a Midlands' welfare housing project in a place the locals call "Hell Close." Throughout almost all of the rest of this book, Townsend shows us how the Winsor/Mountbatten/Teck families adjust to this new, impoverished lifestyle.