Tag Archives: Fiction

Book Review – “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister

schoolofessentialingredients  Title:  The School of Essential Ingredients

Author:  Erica Bauermeister

Publisher:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons

ISBN:  9780399155437

 

Synopsis (from bn.com):

A “heartbreakingly delicious” national bestseller about a chef, her students, and the evocative lessons that food teaches about life

Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian’s restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect…

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian’s soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

 

My thoughts:  I simply can’t say enough about this author and her books.  After reading this author’s “Joy for Beginner’s” a couple of weeks ago I was eager to jump into “The School of Essential Ingredients”.   So what did I do today, but sit down with this wonderful book, a nice warm blanket, and a cup of warm coffee, and finished it in only a couple of hours.

This book is set in a very similar fashion as her “Joy for Beginner’s” in that each chapter represents the story of a different character and ultimately how the character’s lives intersect.  So as this book progresses we get a closer look at each individual who attends these monthly cooking classes at Lillian’s restaurant.

What is fabulous about this book is that it is about way more than simply people coming to a cooking class and getting to know each other.  The deeper themes of the book explore the role food and cooking has played in each character’s past and more importantly into who they are becoming in their futures – food and cooking as a way to reconnect with oneself, food as a way to connect with memories in a woman experiencing confusion in her old age, food as a way to build positive relationships after loss, food as a way to reconnect after dishonesty in a marriage.  Food as a metaphor for life . . . LOVE!

I firmly believe you have to experience this author’s writing style to truly appreciate it, my description simply can’t do it justice.  I find this author’s style of writing just beautifully descriptive, almost lyrical.  Her descriptions of the character’s experiences and in this book, the food, is simply gorgeous and brings the book to life.  When I am reading this author’s works, I feel like I am in the experience, I am in Lillian’s kitchen, smelling and tasting that wonderful food . . . and more importantly the beautiful connections that the food made happen.   Perhaps it is because I enjoy this author’s writing style so much, but I wanted this book to continue.  I felt that I wasn’t finished with these characters, I wanted to know more, and I wanted to delve even deeper into who they were and how they came together.  Give us more!

You know you are enjoying a book and particularly the writing style when you find yourself frequently reaching for something to jot down that beautiful sentence or quote as you want to remember it and refer to it often.  Kudos to Erica Bauermeister for bringing us a simple, heart-warming, lovely book!

We all know I am eagerly awaiting getting my hands on the sequel to this book . . . “The Lost Art of Mixing”.   I can’t wait to return to the love of Lillian’s kitchen.

I highly recommend this book and all of this author’s works!

And remember,

Books Are Life,

Heather

 

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Book Review – “The Light Between Oceans” by M. L. Stedman

lightbetweenoceans  Title:  The Light Between Oceans

Author:  M. L. Stedman

ISBN:  9781451681734

Publisher:  Scribner

Synopsis (from bn.com):

The debut of a stunning new voice in fiction— a novel both heartbreaking and transcendent

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.

The Light Between Oceans is exquisite and unforgettable, a deeply moving novel.

My thoughts:  I must sincerely thank my book club for bringing this book to my attention and choosing it for our January read!  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  This is not the type of book I normally read, but am glad I did.  I don’t even really know where to begin to talk about this book.  Through its plots and subplots, the author has amazing character development of many key characters.

This is a beautifully written novel that takes you on a journey . . . at one moment you are have your mind made up about how you feel toward each of the characters and in the next moment that all changes.  The character and actions that you hate . . . all of a sudden you see it from their perspective and change your mind!

It is a story about decisions, isolation, deceit, lies, cover-ups, love, loss, grief, . . . and more.  It makes you ask yourself the question, “What would I do?”

You know a book is good when you are reaching for your phone to jot down a great quote from the book.  One of my favorite quotes from the book, and perhaps a great metaphor for life when you stop to think about it:

“A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.”

I highly recommend this book!

And remember,

Books are Life,

Heather

 

 

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Book Review – “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain

   Title:  The Paris Wife

Author:  Paula McLain

Publisher:  Random House

Synopsis (from bn.com):  Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Though deeply in love, the Hemingways are ill prepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living, and free-loving life of Jazz Age Paris. As Ernest struggles to find the voice that will earn him a place in history and pours himself into the novel that will become The Sun Also Rises, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing the ultimate crisis of their marriage—a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

My thoughts:  I can’t believe I have been away from this blog for awhile again – ahhhh.  At least it seems as if I have gotten out of my reading slump a bit lately, not totally “cured” but hopefully on my way.  Anyway, on to the review . . .

My book club chose this book for our November read.  Well, what can I say?  I hate being in between and rather apathetic about a book, but unfortunatley this is the case with The Paris Wife.  I didn’t hate it, but I also didn’t love it either.   This book is set in the early 1920’s and explores the relationship of the great Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley.  I don’t know much about the true life of Hemingway, so perhaps this was a disadvantage for me in reading this book.  It was an odd mix of fiction and reality for me.  Clearly it was a work of fiction, however there were many aspects of the story that indeed were true I am sure.  I just found it odd for me not to know what things actually took place in this relationship and which were in fact the author taking creative liscence.  I am not a lover of non-fiction at all, so I guess I would have simply preferred a fictional account.

The story chronicles the sometimes tumultuous relationship of Hemingway and Hadley – their travels around the world soaking in the artistic culture of the time in Paris and beyond, meeting famous authors of the day, and trying to navigate a relationship amongst Hemingway’s struggles with the writing process and his shifting moods.  There was no doubt in my mind how I felt about Hemingway in this book – I just wanted to scream what a jerk he was the entire time I was reading and kept wondering why Hadley was putting up with the treatment she was receiving.  Then I reminded myself that it in fact was a different time in the world and for the time that it was Hadley was rather a progressive, strong individual!

I found the book rather boring, flat, and repetitive at times and after about the halfway point just really lost interest!

A decent read, but surely nothing I would have picked up on my own outside of my book club!

And remember,

Books Are Life,

Heather

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Book Review – “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

    Title:  The Book Thief

Author:  Markus Zusak

ISBN:  9780375842207

Publisher:  Random House

 

Synopsis (from bn.com):

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

 

My thoughts:  Well a huge thank you once again to my book club for introducing me to a book that I didn’t even know existed and hence would have never read without them!  My book club chose this is as our September selection and just discussed it tonight in fact.

I really enjoyed this book.  Don’t let the fact that it is technically characterized as a young adult book fool you, the topic and themes are heavy and thought-provoking.  This novel is set in Nazi Germany in 1930s – 1940s.  Liesel, a young orphan becomes intrigued with books, reading, and all that words have to offer.  The story, narrated by Death itself, follows her as she comes of age in Nazi Germany.

This is a novel about friendship, love, loss, connection, the power of words for good and evil, grief,  . . . and so much more!

It truly is a heartwarming, if not at times gut-wrenching book as it portrays quite vividly scenes from Nazi Germany!

As you are reading consider the following question/thoughts:

“How is the narrator, Death, characterized in the book?  Does it change as the book progresses?”

“Consider how much of our daily lives, thoughts, and beliefs are truly built simply on someone elses words.”

“Consider how guilt is a prevailing theme in this book.  What role does it play?

Truly an enjoyable book!

And remember,

Books Are Life,

Heather

 

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Back from Paradise – Time for More Book Reviews – “A Cookie Before Dying” by Virginia Lowell (Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery #2)

Hi to all of my blog readers!  Well my blog has been silent since my trip to Hawaii at the end of August.  I spent 10 days on the Northshore of Oahu at a Drum Circle Facilitation workshop that was in a word – incredible!  I then spent about 3 days relaxing in the Waikiki area, again – beautiful, relaxing, incredible!  I was able to finish a couple of books of my trip and now it is time to get back to reality and back to my blog/book reviews!  I hope you enjoy a couple of pictures of my Polynesian Paradise!

 

    Title:  A Cookie Before Dying (Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery #2)

Author:  Virginia Lowell

ISBN:  9780423245019

Publisher:  Penguin Group

 

Synopsis (from BN.com):  On a stormy night, Olivia Greyson and her Yorkie discover the body of a man stabbed to death-which looks suspiciously like the intruder seen fleeing the local health food store The Vegetable Plate. Charlene Critch, owner of The Vegetable Plate, has a grudge against Olivia’s cookie cutter shop, but could Charlene be hiding a secret serious enough to kill for?

 

My thoughts:  This is the second installment of Virginia Lowell’s Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery Series.  I have to admit that I had a rather difficult time getting through this book.  I am not sure exactly why as I love my cozies and usually fly through them.  Perhaps it was simply because I got distracted by other things going on and ended up taking a long time to read this book.  In fact, I ended up putting this book down for awhile, reading other things and then getting back to it – which I never do.  Anyway, I felt the storyline dragged quite a bit and I don’t quite really connect to the characters as well as I do in some of my other favorite cozy mystery series.  This book was alright, but certainly nothing special.  I will give her 3rd book in the series which just came out a try and see if it was just me.  Wish I had better things to say, but these things happen 🙂

 

And remember,

Books Are Life,

Heather

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Book Review – “The Last Page” by Lacy Camey

Title:  The Last Page

Author:  Lacy Camey

Synopsis (from Amazon.com):  Norah Johnson is at a crossroads and is in desperate need to heal after a highly
publicized breakup from her major league baseball player boyfriend.

To
escape, she moves to her summer home in The Hamptons with her sister and best
friend where she journals, attends therapy and works on her pending clothing
line all the while wondering how fast can a heart really heal. Well, it sure
helps when part of the healing process involves living in a fabulous summer home
on the beach with your sister and absolute BFF. The best psychologist since Good
Will Hunting always helps. And then there’s the hottie, much older version of
Taylor Lautner look-alike who finds your lost journal, reads it and falls madly
in love with you, “the you on paper”, and is set on finding you and making you
fall in love with him.

Okay, so this can all really help! But is Norah
ready to love again?

My thoughts:  This was another one of my freebie finds on Amazon for my ipad.  I’m not quite sure what I want to say about this book.  I don’t want to slam it as it wasn’t horrible, but it certainly isn’t going to go down as one  is a of the best books I have ever read.  Put it this way, it isn’t going to win any literary prizes anytime soon.

It is a charming, fun, light romance.  It was good for the purpose for which I used it – namely, to read in the gym while on the machines.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be reading some heavy, make you think, drama while I’m trying to distract myself from pouring sweat on the elliptical!

The main characters are fun, charming, if not a bit uppity and pretentious as well.  I mean come on, they are going to spend their summer at one of their parent’s house in th Hamptons for the summer because they have nothing else to do!  One of the characters is trying to keep the secret that her father is probably running for President.  Really?

I do have to say the writing was a bit juvenile, if you will.  I found it rather disjointed and choppy.  I was bothered by the fact that stories didn’t play out a bit more.  It felt a bit rushed and all of a sudden things were resolved.

A good, fast, fun beach read perhaps, or a read for when you are looking for a no-brainer romance.  I wouldn’t pay much for this book if you find it!

And remember,

Books Are Life,

Heather

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Book Review – “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

Title:  The Road

Author:  Cormac McCarthy

ISBN:  9780307387899

Publisher:  Vintage Books

Synopsis (from bn.com):  The searing, postapocalyptic novel destined to become Cormac McCarthy’s masterpiece.A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food-—and each other.The Roadis the profoundly moving story of a journey. It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, “each the other’s world entire,” are sustained by love. Awesome in the totality of its vision, it is an unflinching meditation on the worst and the best that we are capable of: ultimate destructiveness, desperate tenacity, and the tenderness that keeps two people alive in the face of total devastation.

Winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

My thoughts:  Well, I must say that I do not even know where to begin with this review.  My book club picked this book for our August read and I was fairly excited to read something outside of my normal cozy mystery/mystery/chick lit genre.  All I can say about this book is that I read it.  I bordered on hating this book.

It is a story of a father and son, in postapocalyptic times, walking down a road in a burnt out world looking to survive.  That is about it.  It literally describes their walk down this road, scrounging for food and supplies, on their way to the coast.  That is it.

I consider myself rather well-read and somewhat intelligent, so I was excited to feel what other reviewers clearly felt when reading this book, a beautiful description of an abiding love between a father and a son.  I must say I clearly missed this deeper, more analytic, symbolic meaning.

The cover of the book uses words such as, “vivid, eloquent”, “one of the best books of the year”.  I think not.  And frankly I am stunned that it won the Pultizer Prize.  How I ask?

The writing seems overly simplistic to me, especially in parts that are dialogue between the unnamed father and son.  It is short, quick, phrases with little punctuation so ultimately if you are not quick you have no idea who is actually speaking.  The deeper part of me realizes that somehow this style of writing in the dialogue between the father and the son are most likely symbolic of the vast, open, expansive road ahead of them, empty.  But when reading it comes off as simple, juvenile, and boring.

I found the story boring, pointless, and flat.  There was absolutely no climax, just flat and boring throughout.  Although it certainly was a very quick read, the story could have been told in about a chapter or two and the effect would have been the same.

I guess I am just not high-brow enough in my reading choices to have appreciated the underlying beauty, depth, and quality that some see in this book.  Instead of moving and profound, I found it boring and empty.  Instead of eloquent and deep, I found it simple and ridiculous.

I can’t help but to think that some of the books popularity at the time was because it was chosen as an Oprah book.  And we all know that once Oprah mentioned a book, the sheep followed along and read whatever she read and said they loved it. (Not a fan, can you tell!)

I guess I am happily now going back to my cozy mystery series, my mysteries, and my chick lit and refraining from Pulitzer Prize winners for now!

And remember,

Books Are Life,

Heather

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