Thursday, November 20, 2014

Three on Thursday: Fiction for Foodies

In these days leading up to a feast of gratitude and goodies, I have another thing to be thankful for: Books! And today, books of the delicious fiction variety. Foodie fiction comes in many varieties, too. There are cozy mysteries full of recipes and/or set in restaurants, coffee shops or catering companies. There are novels which take the reader to exotic locales full of delicious delicacies and vibrant stories. Or coming of age stories that include working in restaurants. Or family dramas featuring many a heartfelt conversation around a kitchen table. Whatever you're tasting, rest assured there is a novel to suit your craving. Here are three in particular that we've found just delicious--I'm sure you'll have room for one or two.

Eat Cake, by Jeanne Ray. This has been a personal favorite since I read it more than ten years ago. Ruth has always found baking cakes to be a source of relief from the stresses of life. And now-as her husband loses his job, her life-of-the-party father arrives for an extended stay (much to the dismay of her mother, who also moved in recently), and her teenage daughter perfects the art of sulking-Ruth is going to have to save the day. Quiet, heart-warming and delectable, this short novel is a perfect little treat, even if you think you don't have a moment to spare.

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris. Many know Chocolat as the Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. But first, it was the tantalizing novel about hedonism, whimsy and chocolate that intoxicated readers. In a tiny French town, where little has changed over the last hundred years, beautiful newcomer Vianne Rocher and her exquisite chocolate shop arrive and instantly begin to play havoc with Lenten vows. Each box of luscious bonbons comes with a free gift: Vianne's uncanny perception of its buyer's private discontents and a clever, caring cure for them. Is she a witch? Soon the parish no longer cares, as it abandons itself to temptation, happiness, and a dramatic face-off between Easter solemnity and the pagan gaiety of a chocolate festival. Perfectly indulgent.

Need something a bit more savory? I have to recommend Ruth Reichl's recent Delicious! , which follows young Billie Breslin from her home in California to New York, where she lands an internship at the long-running gourmet magazine, Delicious! What follows is part love-story to the rich and varied food traditions of New York City and part mystery as Billie delves deep into the magazine's hidden archives, hot on the trail of a decades-old connection between a young girl and culinary icon James Beard during the second World War. Fascinating, captivating, and completely delicious, this might just make an ideal respite from your holiday preparations.

I'm back next week to wrap up what I've been reading recently. In the meantime, happy reading!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Meg's Picks: December 2014

I have to say, I love my job. And days like today, I am completely delighted with it. Why? Because I get to share these titles with you, titles which, in some cases, I've been keeping to myself for months, saving them for just this moment. Sharing books I enjoy or books that I think others will enjoy (these often overlap, but not always) is truly one of the greatest joys of being a public librarian. Shall we see what's got me all aflutter? Let's.

The Boston Girl, by Anita Diamant. Diamant is perhaps best known for her 1997 breakout novel, The Red Tent. She's been a favorite author of mine every since, so it it with particular relish that I anticipate her newest novel, The Boston Girl. Addie Baum is the Boston girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effects on their three daughters. At 85, Addie is asked about her life by her granddaughter, and the narrative covers Addie's recollections from her childhood, through a disastrous first love affair, and onward, all with Addie's wicked humor and Diamant's poignant attention to historical detail. This will be a must for readers of all stripes. Book clubs in particular will undoubtedly be reading this in the coming years.

The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion. Simsion's bestselling debut novel, 2013's The Rosie Project, has been a runaway hit with readers everywhere, and a particular favorite of many members of The Trumbull Library's staff, myself included. We recommend it constantly, as it is the quirkiest, most unlikely romantic fiction we've seen in years--funny, sweet without being saccharine, with unique, beautifully rendered characters. This sequel finds the unlikely couple living in New York, and anticipating the arrival of their first child. Don sets about researching fatherhood and child-rearing with his usual methods, and his usual hilariously disastrous results. If it's half as funny and charming as the first book, readers will be in for a treat.

Moriarty, by Anthony Horowitz. Horowitz is an international bestseller, best known for his Alex Rider adventure series. He was sanctioned by the Conan Doyle estate in 2011 to write The House of Silk, much to the delight of Holmes fans everywhere. He returns here to explore what really happened when Sherlock Holmes and his arch nemesis Professor Moriarty tumbled to their doom at the Reichenbach Falls. With this sudden vacuum in the criminal underworld, there is no shortage of candidates to take his place, one particularly fiendish villain in particular catching the attention of Pinkerton detective Chase and Scotland Yard inspector Jones in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Horowitz has breathed new life into the long-popular series, gaining a whole new generation of Holmes enthusiasts.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Reading Ahead: December 2014, part 3

There's something for every reader in December, whether your preference is for a thriller, a suspense novel, or something a little different from a favorite author. What am I talking about? Let's find out.

Saint Odd, by Dean Koontz. Odd Thomas is back where it all started . . . because the time has come to finish it. Since he left his simple life in the small town of Pico Mundo, California, his journey has taken him to places strange and wonderful, mysterious and terrifying. Across the land, in the company of mortals and spirits alike, he has known kindness and cruelty, felt love and loss, saved lives and taken them—as he’s borne witness to humanity’s greatest good and darkest evil. Again and again, he has gone where he must and done what he had to do—for better or worse—with his courage and devotion sorely tested, and his soul forever changed. Every triumph has been hard won. Each sacrifice has taken its toll. Now only the reckoning remains. If you're new to Odd Thomas, I highly recommend starting at the beginning--this series is absolutely riveting, if a little odd.

Tom Clancy’s Full Force And Effect, by Mark Greaney. The challenge facing President Jack Ryan is an old one with a terrifying new twist. The international stalemate with North Korea continues into its seventh decade.  A young, untested dictator is determined to prove his strength by breaking the deadlock. Like his father before him, he hangs his plans on the country’s nuclear ambitions. Until now, that program was impeded by a lack of resources. However, there has been a dramatic change in the nation’s economic fortune. A rich deposit of valuable minerals have been found in the Hermit Kingdom.  Coupled with their nuclear capabilities, the money from this find will make North Korea a dangerous force on the world stage.
There’s just one more step needed to complete this perfect plan…the elimination of the president of the United States.

Dogwood Hill, by Sherryl Woods. When former pro football quarterback Aidan Mitchell comes to Chesapeake Shores to take a high school coaching job, he's embraced by the town—especially the O'Briens. But Aidan has a secret that could alter all their lives. For wounded Liz March, who's trying for a fresh start after a devastating betrayal, taking a chance on Aidan may be more than she can handle. Her heart, however, refuses to listen to her head. But just when forever seems within reach, Aidan's secret threatens to change everything. Woods isn't a reader favorite for nothing. Readers new to her Chesapeake Shores novels might want to start with The Inn at Eagle Point.

Saving Grace, by Jane Green. Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect literary power couple. Ted is a successful novelist and Grace, his wife of twenty years, is beautiful, stylish, carefree, and a wonderful homemaker. But what no one sees are Ted’s rages and mood swings, or the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, the house of cards begins to crumble and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable. She finds herself in need of help but with no one to turn to…until the perfect new assistant shows up out of the blue. Beth can handle Ted and has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household. Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true. This new interloper might be the biggest threat of all, one that could cost Grace her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity.  A different sort of novel by best-selling Green, but I think this risk may pay off with dividends.

I'll be back next week with my picks for December fiction releases. In the meantime, happy reading!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Reading Ahead: December 2014, part 2

I hope readers can find some time in their schedules in the post-holiday lull, because there are some great suspense novels headed our way next month. Check it out!

Robert B. Parker’s The Bridge, by Robert Knott. Knott returns with another installment in the best-selling Cole & Hitch series. Territorial Marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are back in Appaloosa, where their work enforcing the law has been exceptionally quiet. All that is about to change. An ominous storm rolls in, and along with it a band of night riders with a devious scheme, who show up at the Rio Blanco camp, where a three-hundred-foot bridge is under construction. The Appaloosa Sheriff and two deputies, first to respond when there's trouble at the bridge, go missing. And that's only the beginning of the troubles set for Cole and Hitch to sort out. Series fans are sure to be pleased with this new novel--Knott does Parker's series proud.

The Assassination Option, by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV. Second in the Clandestine Operations series following Top Secret, Griffin's new novel follows members of the newly fledged CIA in a war unlike any other, the Cold War. James Cronley's successful first mission garnered lots of attention, some more welcome than others. A promotion is great, but it also puts him under close scrutiny from both sides of the Iron Curtain. The pressure has only just begun to mount as Cronley walks a knife's edge in this spy thriller. Griffin isn't a best-seller for nothing.

Rain on the Dead, by Jack Higgins. Terrorism, revenge and a very old nemesis collide in this new Sean Dillon novel from veteran suspense writer Higgins. On a dark summer night, two Chechen mercenaries emerge from the waters off Nantucket to kill a high-value target, the former president of the United States, Jake Cazalet. Unfortunately for them, Cazalet has guests with him, including black ops specialist Sean Dillon and his colleague, Afghan war hero Captain Sara Gideon. While the Chechens don't survive the night, Dillon is curious as to how they even got onto the island in the first place...and the answers chill him to the bone. An excellent addition to the series.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Reading Ahead: December 2014, part 1

It's hard to avoid December. Television commercials are already leaning toward the holiday season. Stores are featuring festive decorations. But there's more to look forward to than tinsel and fruitcake, especially if you're a reader. Publishers save some of their best and brightest offerings for the giving season, so pay close attention--there just may be something coming up that you'd like to gift to yourself. And at the library, it's free!

Die Again, by Tess Gerritsen. Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles series is hugely popular, even generating a television series based on the characters. And fans will be thrilled with this new installment. When Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are summoned to a crime scene, they find a killing worthy of the most ferocious beast—right down to the claw marks on the corpse. But only the most sinister human hands could have left renowned big-game hunter and taxidermist Leon Gott gruesomely displayed like the once-proud animals whose heads adorn his walls. Did Gott unwittingly awaken a predator more dangerous than any he’s ever hunted?

Hush, by Karen Robards. When Riley Cowan finds her estranged husband Jeff dead in his palatial home, she’s sure it’s no coincidence. The police rule it a suicide, but Riley thinks someone’s out for blood—specifically someone Jeff’s father ripped off in one of the biggest financial fraud cases of all time. She suspects that someone is trying to send a message to Jeff’s father: Tell me where the money is, or everyone you care about will die... Robards has quite a following, and with good reason.

Woman with a Gun, by Philip Margolin. Margolin is perhaps best known for his dark and gritty crime novels, but here he takes a different approach in what critics are calling a haunting thriller. When aspiring novelist Stacey Kim first sees the Pulitzer Prize winning photo "Woman With A Gun" in a museum, she is immediately drawn in, wondering about the circumstances surrounding the photo. What she finds out is that the woman, who stands in a wedding dress with a six shooter behind her back as she faces the ocean, was suspected of shooting her husband, though the case was never solved. Stacey digs deeper and soon learns that the only one who may actually know what happened is the reclusive photographer herself, but she isn't talking... Mystery and suspense readers alike will want a copy.