Friday, May 27, 2016

TBR (ideally on a beach towel in the sun)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Well second most wonderful. Tis the season for summer beach reads lists. My favorite list by NPR is not out yet, but I’ve been busy browsing these:

The books everyone else has put on hold at your library

The books most likely to be found at Target

The books most likely to combat the summer slide

And on my TBR list for summer are the following new releases by some of my favorite authors:

What's on your list?

Friday, May 20, 2016

Comfort Reads

In the tongue-in-cheek tradition of shows like this, comes this series brought to us by PBS. Except, delightfully, it’s not a mockumentary. Amateur bakers ranging in age from 17 to retiree meet in a tent each weekend for a bake-off showcasing a different skill.  Although the baked goods look scrumptious, it’s the contestants’ asides, facial expressions, and repartee with the hostesses and judges that will keep you watching.

To bide my time waiting for Season Two to be made available somewhere on the Internet, I’ve discovered the Hannah Swensen murder mystery series by Joanne Fluke. Hannah owns a bakery in Lake Eden, Minnesota. However, in between baking the next day’s batch of cookies or catering her mother’s Regency Romance club, she has a nasty habit of stumbling upon dead bodies.

Comfort food for the serial reader, this series is predictable in plot (find a body, eat chocolate, go behind boyfriend detective’s back to interview suspects, make a cake, get trapped in a small space with the killer, eat more chocolate).  Swensen’s obsession with new recipes (helpfully printed at the end of each chapter) and dilemma of which suitor to marry - detective or dentist - is quaintly old-fashioned, in our age of Pinterest and Also, comforting, once you’re hooked, is knowing that there are 17 or 18 more to read.

And recipes involving double or triple chocolate to try.

Friday, May 13, 2016

"It was the trip to the circus the day before the world ended"

In Days of Awe by Lauren Fox, Isabel’s best friend has died. Shortly after, her husband has moved out. Her daughter has turned surly and prefers spending time with her grandmother. And her maternal instinct is “buried underneath an unexcavated pile of clutter, along with the missing check [she] wrote for her field trip to the Art Museum and the bike key [she] lost last year.”

Upon meeting a charming gentleman in her grief group, she must decide if she’s ready to date again. Testing out her excuse for backing out of the date, she says, “I’m not looking for a relationship right now I’m looking for a relationship right now I need to focus on me I need to focus on cake.”

Slowly Isabel comes to terms with her dying marriage and the death of her friend. She remembers how to make her daughter laugh. And just maybe everything will be okay.

If you can relate to cake as a life goal, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.  If you are a forty something mother of a preteen, you must read this book. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

"There is everything left to cure"

This week’s reading challenge - read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel – was a challenge. I’ve tried reading other books in the same vein, but I’ve never made it past the first few chapters. Perhaps it was the epigraph by Haruki Murakami that greeted me on the first page, or the fact that the protagonist was safely ensconced in a hospital for the first half of the novel, but I actually finished Find Me by Laura Van Den Berg.

Joy, the protagonist of this novel, is one of a few people who have proved immune to a sickness that has swept across the United States. She, along with other asymptomatic Americans, has been shuttled to the Hospital. Ostensibly, they are there to be studied for a cure. However, the extreme security measures and questionable qualifications of the medical staff make them feel more like inmates rather than patients.

As the story progresses, we discover Joy had less than a stellar childhood. Abandoned as a baby, she grew up in foster care. After leaving the system, she finds work as a night clerk in a convenience store and whiles away the lonely hours sipping from shoplifted bottles of cough syrup. When the sickness starts claiming its victims, a dying relative contacts Joy and gives her the first clue in figuring out her mother’s identity.

It is the search for her mother along with her growing skepticism of the Hospital’s concern for her well-being that drives Joy to escape. On the road, she finds her way from Kansas to Florida. Kismet brings her a traveling companion, a former housemate from her foster home. Together, Joy and Marcus witness the desolation of communities devoid of people and the devastation of neglected infrastructures that predates the epidemic.

Unfortunately Van Den Berg’s chronicle of a sickness without a cure feels all too familiar in light of recent scares. But by focusing on memory and friendship as tools of survival for those lucky enough to survive, she infuses hope in an otherwise bleak existence.