Wednesday, December 31, 2008

January Picks by Jackie!

January promises to be a month for curling up with a warm blanket and a good book. And there are plenty just out or just about to come out that I recommend as your companion under the covers!

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!


Hallie Ephron said...

Thanks for the kind words on NEVER TELL A LIE, Jackie -- I was in Tattered Covers back in '01 when I was in Denver and my first book had just come out. I had to make a pilgrimage to what is a legendary store among authors.

All the best in the New Year!

- Hallie

Jackie said...

We are all flattered that you are reading our blog (and saying such kind things about us as well)! Thanks for starting my new year out on such a high note!