Food for Thought

A Great Thriller and Apple Tarts – Oh My!

Jennifer Alderson has created a fast paced and suspenseful historical novel about art theft In the Netherlands. Two time lines connect the plot. In the contemporary time line is the feisty Zelda Richardson, intern for an Amsterdam museum’s exhibition of still unclaimed artwork once stolen by the Nazis. Trouble begins when two women claim the same painting.  Zelda and her friend Friedrich become detectives in what becomes a dangerous game worth millions in artwork and a cover up of murders. During the Nazi occupation time line, priceless artwork was stolen from Jews, gays, dissidents and other victims by the Nazi government and too with the assistance of officials and citizens of the occupied countries. Arjan van Heemsvliet is an art dealer trying to protect his artwork from the greed of the Nazis and at the same time, hide his homosexuality, a “crime” which could send him to a concentration camp. Jennifer has pulled together all of this data into an exciting and suspenseful historical novel. Zelda, our modern sleuth, is impulsive, courageous and smart as Sherlock Holmes in sniffing out clues. I immediately liked her!  Jennifer told me, “Zelda’s intellect is driven by her endless curiosity, a deep-seated need to…

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Another Tasty Idea and a Great Book!

Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris Dystopian novels have a long and popular history, from classics such as The Time Machine, Brave New World and 1984 to the more modern Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale and Divergent.  Some take place in a specific time and place and some are vague or fantasies. Some dystopian novels use unknown tyrants while others use current US rivals, such as the Chinese, Cubans or Russians. That is the route of The Kitchen Rivals by Laurie Boris, which uses a specific enemy, the Russians and their allies, the Cubans, as the tyrannical rulers who have taken over the eastern part of the US. Its setting is also specific, taking place in the Hudson Valley, where the author lives. Laurie skillfully places the main scenes in the kitchen, where main character Valerie, now called Three, with her fellow chefs, including Chef Svetlana, under whom she had previously studied at the Culinary Institute of America create meals for the general, his staff and visitors. Food is an important focus in the novel.  While the kitchen chefs are prisoners, food still provides joy, love and artistry. It is used as payment, as for chef Four, and used horribly, as when the child Tomàs is forced to taste food in case…

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A Thriller & a Burger (Vegan) – Perfect!

Of Half a Mind                                                                                                                                                                                                                            by Bruce M. Perrin Stanley Milgrom’s famous studies on obedience, prodded by bullying and authority, comes to life in Bruce Perrin’s Of Half a Mind. While both are ostensibly about memory and learning, they are in fact about submission and subservience to authority. Milgrom’s studies, of course, were at Yale with students who went home, disturbed after what they thought they had done. [No one was actually electrically shocked or hurt in any way.] Bruce commented, “Stanley Milgram’s studies in the 1960’s and 1970’s revealed an unexpected dark…

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A Wonderful Book, A Lovely Playground and a Snack- what could be more Fun!

Dana Deserves a Playground Too by Yael Manor Sometimes you just fall in love with a book, the illustrations, the characters and the story.  And that is what has happened here. Yael Manor has written a story for children that needs telling.  Dana is a young girl with a loving family and friends. She goes to the playground where her friends are playing happily. Dana is in a wheelchair and there is nothing there that she can do.  Not the swings, not the carousel, not the slide or the climbing equipment. Yael’s point is that Dana is not alone. Most community or school playgrounds simply do not welcome children who are physically challenged. Children like Dana are excluded from playing with friends. She told me how she was inspired to write this story.  “One day, I came across a story on Facebook about a woman who met a father and daughter at the playground. Due to a disability, the girl was confined to a wheelchair and unable to enjoy any of the playground facilities. All she could do was put her doll in the swing and push it, which caused great sorrow for her and her father. This story gave me the inspiration to write…

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Make a Cosmo, put up your feet and enjoy Been Searching for You!

  Nicole Evelina's Been Searching for You One might subtitle this book, “Searching for Romance in the Cold, Single World.” Each of Nicole Evelina’s characters handles being a singleton in individual ways. Annabeth Coe, the main character is a romantic, searching for “the head-over-heels heart-melting love,” while still recovering from a years ago disastrous boyfriend, Nick. Mia, her sexy good friend has no loyalties to her boyfriend or anyone else, we find. Miles, Annabeth’s best friend and work colleague, is Mia’s beleaguered boyfriend. Laine, Annabeth’s boss, is a career woman. Victor, a painter on the way to being discovered, seems to be a good fit until his career proves to need a more “perfect” partner. Alex, a literature professor, is still mourning his last girlfriend. Annabeth has a birthday tradition: she writes to her dream man and refuses to accept anything but her vision of a romantic partner. She’s pushed by friends and family to open herself to dating. “Where’s your boyfriend?” “You aren’t getting any younger.” “Tick-tock.” Like her main character, Annabeth, the author is in public relations and an historic fiction writer. Annabeth would rather stay at home with a good book and glass of wine rather than…

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An Irish Tale and Guinness Chili- ready for St. patrick’s Day!

Secrets of the Apple Tree Tavern: The Making of an Irish Godfather (Irish Fires Book 1) by Mary Ellen Gavin   In The Secrets of the Apple Tree Tavern, Mary Ellen Gavin writes movingly and deeply about the Irish in New York and in Dublin. Raised in an Irish family, she shared, “The joys and sorrows of family are taught to the Irish from birth. All good and all bad can only come from your Family. A brother who succeeds in life is your joy ... a sister who births a sickly baby is your sorrow. The Irish build strong family ties and know how to wield guilt. It is the way I was raised. I thrived from it and I cried from it ... more than some other families.” Life is seen through the eyes of Frances Fleming, an orphan of Irish immigrants during the Depression, then adopted by a tavern owner. Like the author, family becomes extremely important to him.  At a young age, he is put to work, gladly on his part for his new “family.”  His childhood is happy and his years filled with stories of Ireland and the “old ways.” So many of us are enchanted…

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The Thrill of Mountain Climbing and the Delight of Home Cooking!

The Altitude Journals by David Mauro One would never have picked David Mauro, author of The Altitude Journals to climb the major 7 mountain peaks in the world. Not only wasn’t he a climber, he wasn’t even a hiker. He was down on his luck, living in his sister’s spare room while going through a divorce. Then, he received an invitation from his brother-in-law to climb Mount Denali. And that was the turning point. The Altitude Journals are about his journey, through mountain climbing, with its adventures, its difficulties and its redemptions.  I climbed each mountain with David, routed for him and read every word in his retelling of this journey. David’s sense of humor is evident throughout. When I asked him what he had initially thought when Thai asked him to join him climbing Denali, the highest point in North America, he told me, “My initial thought was, ‘Well, I'm not even a mountain climber so that sounds like a bad fit.’  By the end of the journey I had come of age as an altitude climber, so I understood clearly what I was getting myself into with Everest. I liked my chances of success, which I placed at 30%.” Hiking and climbing…

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“Reconstructing Jackson”- Heartbreak, Love and good food for Valentine’s Day!

  Holly Bush’s Reconstructing Jackson. The year is 1867. The Confederates have lost and the South is bitter, much in ruins.  Throughout the US, the former slaves are free yet most remain fearful, unable to exercise the freedoms they have been given. Enter Reed Jackson, lawyer, handsome and defeated Confederate officer. One leg amputated during the war, the other said to be too weak to use, Reed is in a wheel chair, angry, hopeless and uncertain about his future. His plantation and financé have been given to his younger brother and Reed is sent to the Aimes cousins in Missouri. Holly told me, “He knew the South could not support slavery forever, he knew his father was a cruel man, he knew that good people existed (his mother), he fought in a war he did not support but was expected of him, and he knew that the law must be followed blindly to begin our crawl out of our national conflicts.” So begins the historical romance written by Holly Bush. Reed is confronted with the historical reality of his era. His cousins own a boarding house and employ Beulah, a free Black manager, a bright, educated former slave. She is also a teacher, who elevates…

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Space in the Heart & Food in the Stomach!

    What is apparent from the start of the well-written Space in the Heart are the wounds of the three vibrant main characters. Author Rodney Walther told me, “I like to write characters who are complex, who have some wound or flaw that shapes who they are and how they see the world. Although the main characters Garrison and Danica take tentative steps toward love, they are each pursuing an individual journey of growth, which is as important as their romantic relationship.” Throw in Zoey, a moody adolescent.  In many ways emotionally, she is completely normal with the roller-coaster feelings of a teenager. Being in a wheel chair sets her apart, yet Rodney’s strong and apt development allows us to sit in her chair as we read.  The authors is successful in his goal of writing “Zoey as a teenage girl who happened to have a disability, not as a disabled girl first and foremost.” The plot reveals the nasty side of adolescents who both mock and ignore Zoey. Having been an educator for many years, I have seen these types of encounters. While all bullying is wrong, this type is extremely infuriating for me. Like many teenagers, Zoey wants to handle this…

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A Book for Christmas and Pasta for a Healthy New Year!

Foodie Lit Definition: a genre  of novels and memoirs filled with stories and recipes Susan indieBRAG Foodie Lit Blogger Mothers who disappear. Fathers who die. Mothers who are in jail. Parents with hidden identities. And children who search and yearn for their parents and try to find, if not them, substitutes. The quandaries do not end there. Husbands with other families. Organized crime threatening safety.  Diverse racial and religious identities within families. Florence Osmund is fascinated with identity and family. In The Coach House and Daughters, paired novels, and Nineteen Hundred Days, she disturbs the smooth surface of the life of her characters. She takes away their safety and then allows them to develop the strength to create safety for themselves. She told me, “Characters Marie and Ben are confronted with safety issues, both physical and emotional, beyond what most people face in their daily lives. The level of safety they feel is directly related to the risks they take.” Families ground and direct us, whether we remain or rebel. The complexity of the characters’ emotions reveals choices that were difficult and with relationships that remain complicated. Marie Marchetti, the main character in The Coach House and Daughters, discovers that important people in her life…

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