Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
This is a glorious book. It's about food as a touchstone and a means for memory, community, nurturing, healing, loving, seduction, sustenance, pleasure, joy, beginning, endings--life. It is the story of a cooking class that learns far more than culinary skills at the hands of a chef whose wisdom is not limited to food stuffs. The language is lush and decadent, rolling off the page and into your mind like a drug. I could taste, smell, see and feel everything as if I was indeed standing at the prep table myself. This is Bauermeister's first novel, but the power and magic in her prose tells me that it is far from her last.
Fans of Harris's Chocolat will be crazy about this book, but I would recommend it for foodies of any sort, and really just about anyone--this book casts a powerful spell that makes you see, feel and taste the world, even your memories, in a new, deep, consuming way.
Two Rivers by T. Greenwood
This book got bumped up on my reading list because it's one of January's IndieNext picks. And I'm glad it did, because this is a beautifully written novel with a complex tapestry of family, racism, sociology, cultural matters,love, hate, past and present. The story bounces effortlessly back and forth between the mid 1950's to 1980, building the story much like you would put together a jigsaw puzzle. It's fiction, but it certainly appealed to the mystery lover in me as
those bits and pieces began to fit together. Ultimately it is about understanding and forgiveness, though on it's surface it seems to be about a man, a pregnant teenager and a train wreck. But it's so, so, so much more. This is going to be a great bookclub pick--it touches upon such a cornucopia of discussion topics.
Never Tell A Lie by Hallie Ephron
This book will be featured on the IndieNext list for January, and boy, can I see why. I literally could not put this book down and powered through it in a matter of hours. It's a gripping tale of a young couple who have a yard sale one Sunday that an old high school acquaintance shows up at. This is an innocent start to a nightmare that threatens to shatter, even end, their lives. Pay attention--there are clues throughout the text. I think Coben fans will like the pace of this one especially, but any thriller/mystery/suspense lover should really dig it.
The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neil
If I had to, I'd call this "foodie chic lit", but this isn't "Sex in the City" chic lit--this one actually has some seriousness and some heft. Elena, the lone survivor of a horrific car wreck that killed a number of her family and her boyfriend, is a chef now, living with her damaged body and her more damaged soul in the tough, male dominated world of high end cuisine. She's offered her first executive chef position with the challenge of renovating and recreating a restaurant in Aspen. I absolutely FELL into this book. I identified with the kitchen challenges, Elena's loneliness, the fact that it was set in Colorado for the most part, and drooled over the many wonderful culinary creations in the book (recipes delightfully included). It's a love story (two, actually--there's a fun "side" story about a gay couple forming from what seems like polar opposites in the kitchen), but for many of the characters it's more about healing and taking chances. There's even some politics about immigration and "guest workers" in this country. And several ghosts. It's hard to pigeon hole this book, but not hard to enjoy it!
I, Lorelei by Yeardley Smith
It was hard not to hear Lisa Simpson's voice when reading this book--after all, Yeardley Smith has been coming into our homes for something like 20 years AS Lisa Simpson's voice. But Lorelei is very much her own character with her own problems. She's got two brothers ( one older, one younger), her cat just died, and now her parents are splitting up. Convinced that she will one day be famous, she begins to write a journal chronicling what all is happening in her life for her future biographers ( so they don't have to make stuff up about her). One of her teachers told her that many writers picture someone they are writing TO in their minds so that writing is more like a conversation, so Lorelei decides to writer her journal entries to Mud, her dead cat. Often funny, we still see tough things through her astute 11 year old eyes. It's quite good, and I'd recommend it for the 8-12 age group, or anyone (like me) curious about Smith's writing.
Stay warm and enjoy! And please, write us with a list of YOUR January reads--we're just
as curious about what you are reading as we are eager to talk about what we are!
Happy New Year!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Christmas was and still is, a book. My mother shopped all year for our books and I still buy myself one special one--usually a children's book.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sometime in the late 70s, my dad gave me a paperback of P.D. James' Death of an Expert Witness for Christmas. It seems like a small thing, but it meant a lot to me that he had made the effort to talk to a bookseller and get a recommendation for a new mystery author, since by then, I'd pretty much polished off Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, and was making inroads with Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey. I really enjoyed the book, and couldn't name any other gifts I received that year. It's now been ten years since my dad's death, and I'm looking forward to reading James' new release, The Private Patient, when it comes out this fall, as part of his legacy to me.
And bookseller Chuck writes:
Books have always been a part of my holidays but nothing was really jumping out at me. If we ever got to open an early present it was almost always a book, hours were spent in the living room in front of fires with family lounging around reading or being read to. Every year my mom would read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to us, but not just any edition, it had to be our grandfather's edition with the wonderful illustrations. One year we spent hours looking for that edition even though we had other editions we could have read to us. It not just the stories it also the books.
Friday, December 12, 2008
'Twas the month before Christmas
and all through the store
were lots of fine books
that one couldn't ignore
The hard covers were stacked,
so high that they swayed.
And shiny paperbacks stood
in their cases displayed
Cards, lights, and calendars ranked
case after case
and shelf upon shelf of gift-stuff
fills the space.
And each shopper's list flutters
in the common refrain:
One for mom, dad, and Johnnie
another for Jane.
So, questions ring telephones
like jingling bells
Soaps, teas, and candles
bring Holiday smells
The thoughts of each loved one,
of family and friends,
at gatherings and dinners
before the year ends
For each a bright package
in ribbon and bow
Good books to curl up with
let the winter storms blow...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
When I was very young we had a few Christmas books we pulled out every year. We had inherited them from older cousins who had outgrown them. I remember sitting with my little sister reading from Richard Scarry's "Animals' Merry Christmas". I was absolutely delighted to find this book still in print when I came to work here. It still makes me smile to see that book come through each year.
And from Molly, of our Internet store:
I can remember being totally enchanted by my first pop-up book - a fantasy trip to Mars where an elaborate castle was depicted in paper with many levels and stairs. I spent hours walking my fingers and my tiny dolls up and down the stairs and hiding behind the pop-up features.
Now that I am an adult, I am mesmerized by Robert Sabuda's wonderful paper engineering and artistry. I have given several to my family and other adult friends. At the Tattered Cover, we keep them in the childrens' section, so they are still a secret from the many adults who would treasure them - Night Before Christmas Pop-Up Book, Dinosaurs: Encyclopedia Prehistorica, The Christmas Alphabet, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and others. They are super-special and unexpected delights. I recommend them as gifts for anyone!!
Thank you, Happy Holidays, and Keep on Reading!
Friday, December 5, 2008
Today's post is from bookseller Jackie:
There are a LOT of great new holiday books out for the little ones (and really, who are we kidding, grownups like them too--EVERYONE is a kid at holiday time, right!). Here are a few that caught my eye and heart this year:
Jan Brett's illustrations are what make this book. Add a pop-up surprise ending and the recipe for gingerbread running through the margins and you've got a holiday inner for the 6 and under crowd. (Or folks like me who just love gingerbread stuff no matter what season it is!) .
A delightful holiday vocabulary lesson with charming illustrations by Jane Dyer. There's even a recipe for Christmas Cookies at the very end :)
I was sold by the second sentence: "Miracles are like pimples, because once you start looking for them you find more than you ever dreamed you'd see."
A bit of charcoal wants to be an artist, or at least get involved in a barbecue. Funny with that lovely Snickety snark to it, but still a great holiday story!
Cute critters asking for one special thing for Christmas--clever, simple. Nice holiday book.
This book is based on a poem performed by Angelou at the 2005 White House tree lighting ceremony. The paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher are truly amazing. One line of the poem especially captured me: "It is what we have hungered for. Not just the absence of war. But true Peace." That is truly what the greatest world hunger today is.
From the text: "But Marley, being Marley, always ended up on the wrong side of right." Everyone's favorite wild child puppy experiences Christmas for the first time--can he help it if he didn't understand what the tree in the living room was for (among other mishaps)? Humorous illustrations by Richard Caudrey are the icing on the cake.
LOVE this book! Love it, love it, love it. These are well thought out and extremely creative answers to kids questions about Santa and friends. Watch out for Undercover Elves or any of the other clever surprises that go into making the North Pole work. Kids will love it, and adults will appreciate the subtle but ever present humor woven in.
Sweet story about two children from a poor family determined to make Christmas special. Lovely illustrations by Lindsay Grater. Reminded me of Laura Ingals Wilder's sweet and simple books.
This story was originally published circa 1920 as a sort of advent calendar. It got lost over time, but was rediscovered in an antiquarian bookshop in Switzerland in 2006, along with the original illustrations by Germany's famous Else Wenz-Vietor. Based on German Christmas traditions, it's a very sweet tale about two woodman's children who want nothing for Christmas but for their ailing father to be well again. Saint Nicholas (who visits homes Dec. 6 in Germany) tells them that the scent of the White Winter Rose has the ability to cure all illness, but to get it they must go on a long, dangerous and difficult journey the Winter Land as The Winter King is the only one that grows it. Helped by many woodland and fantastical creatures, the children have an amazing adventure and learn the true meaning of love and Christmas spirit.
It seems that Santa was quite a slacker as a youngster. Fortunately he had Rodney the dog, who through persistence and cleverness, "bootcamps" Santa into the fine, jolly, hard working and caring fellow he is today.
I also want to share a fantastic story a co-worker told me. Her nieces and nephews have SO many Christmas books (a side effect of having an Aunty in the book biz, among other things, lol) that her sister in law has created a tradition. Mid November she wraps each and every one of those books, and beginning on Thanksgiving day, the kids get to pick out two of them a day to open and read. They've got the fun of opening "presents" as well as the joy of rediscovering old favorites, plus some great family time to boot. I think this is just one of the coolest things ever. Think about starting a tradition in your own family!