Food for Thought

Sharing a wonderful romance book with friends – and a yummy Peach Cobbler!

Olive Witkins was sure she had her days planned out. At 35, she was a spinster, worked at a Philadelphia library and took care of her parents’ house. She kept her hair in a tight bun, wore black clothes and kept herself all buttoned up. Then life intervened. With the death of her brother and his wife in 1891, Olive travels to the wilds of Spencer, Ohio to save their two children, fantasizing about the culture and family legacy she would bestow on Mary and John, how she would teach them and they would love her. Her dream shattered when she saw the hovel where her drunken brother had kept his family, not fit for human habitation. What her brother and his wife put their children through “rubbed raw all that she knew to be true…” With great difficulty, Olive rises to the occasion, mothers her niece and nephew with the help of her brother’s neighbor Jacob Butler. She begins to mother his 3 children as well. Despite her lack of experience and being used to Philadelphia life, “Olive felt more alive, more focused than she ever had before in her life…. I am done letting life go by.” Farm…

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Grab a cup of tea, homemade raisin bread and a Mystery perfect for Valentine’s Day!

  A mystery with a romance, Aunt Bea’s Legacy combines what many readers love: a quaint English village, some friendly and not so friendly ghosts, twists and turns in the mystery and romance and a surprise ending. And I love a mystery whose ending I can’t guess! Main character, Lucy Dixon is a chef. I love reading about her baking and canning, living on a small working farm. Very inspirational for those of us who dream of orchards and berry patches and herb gardens. Lucy is an appealing character. While a confident chef, she is unsure of herself in terms of relationships and life’s choices.She decides to leave her London chef’s position to stay at her aunt’s house in order to find out how her aunt died. What are the noises that haunt the house, from footsteps to crying, from screams to eerie images? Is this why her aunt was found dead with a fireplace poker in hand? Her aunt’s will requires Lucy to live at River View for one year to inherit the house. Her love for her aunt, who helped raise her after her mother’s death, is part of the reason for her increasing love for River View. “In fact…

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Drift away to Montreal in the 1950’s and enjoy a French delight!

  Author David Riese was having coffee one morning in his usual café when Riva Weiss, an older woman author Dave Riese had spoken to from time to time came over, sharing a story about a passionate love she had when just 18. Building on what Riva had told him, Dave expanded the bones of her story to a novel of a wonderfully poignant romance. Being built on a true story adds to the depth and interest of this work. To this day, Dave is still in touch with Riva, who turned 88 this year. In 1951, the fictional Rebecca Wiseman meets and falls in love with Sol Gottesman at a YMHA dance. Despite coming from different social classes and families, the two are passionate in this first love. Based on a true-life romance, Dave writes a very romantic novel with a clear understanding of how both young men and women react to a first love. Sol woos Rebecca with beautiful flowers, fancy restaurants and whispered phone calls. Rebecca dreams of Sol, calls him frequently, quite forward for a young woman of that time, and even is the aggressive one romantically. Dave said that his ideas about romance did not…

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Spend the day with Lavender Fantasy!

  Valerie Beil's Circle of Nine,: Beltany Adolescence is not an easy time for most. Brigit Quinn is bullied and excluded. She and her mother Celeste live alone, her father a mystery, and follow the old Celtic religion, thus not celebrating holidays the way others at school do. Brigit finds her confidence and strength as she learns to use her magical powers. I asked Valerie why magic is so appealing in young adult novels. She told me, “I love writing for this age group. (I love reading young adult novels, too.) Teens are at a jumping off point and there’s so much potential and hope, but they’re also not completely in control of their destiny. Adults in their lives still have a lot of power. Inserting magic into a story gives my teen characters some independence and the power they desire—which is appealing really to any age group.” The story opens on Brigit’s 15th birthday, a day that starts a new phase of her life. Her mother gives her 3 significant gifts. One is a large leather bound book written by the women in her family, beginning on Sept. 19, 1324. But this journal is not written the way other journals are.…

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Yummy Spinach-Cheese Pockets – without all the trauma Mirra had to go through!

  “I am Uru Ana, privy to men’s darkest secrets, witness to the memories that haunt and the memories that comfort.” Mirra and her brother Kel are from a people who mind-travel, who can see into others’ memories and thoughts. They are feared and they are used for their abilities. Their country has been destroyed, they have been exiled and are in hiding, many hunted and enslaved. heir original home, where they truly belong, is gone. Author Claire Merle told me, “Mirra holds a deep sense of being unable to ever get ‘home’, even before she starts her journey and this is shown through the lost island of the Uru Ana. To me, it’s as much an internal sense of something missing as an external one. There have been periods in my life where I’ve had the sense that ‘home’, where I truly belong, is somehow inaccessible. As though it lies in another time and place, perhaps childhood, or elsewhere.” Like many before them, Kel is kidnapped, the glittering eyes of the young shadow weavers giving Kel away. He is to be taken to the Pit and sold into slavery.  This transaction is interrupted by Mirra, who leaves her injured…

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Can you imagine anything better than a good mystery and sweet rolls?

Foodie Lit Definition: a genre of novels & memoirs filled with stories and recipes Join Susan as she shares he reviews and fantastic recipes! Hush Girl by Gloria Zachgo is a well-written novel so intimate it reads like a memoir.  After the death of her father, memories and nightmares begin to re-emerge for main character Nicole Reed.  These caused panic attacks, an inability to speak, mood swings and loosing of her grasp on reality. But what was her childhood reality? That is what Nicki both needs and fears to find. Nicki and readers doubt her sanity as Gloria blurs memory, visions and nightmare. At the same time as the author takes us back into Nicki’s abusive past, we are led through her healing through counseling and family support. Although a long and difficult process, we see the healing value of counseling. Nicki is a writer within the novel, writing a mystery within a mystery, her writing modeling the author’s own writing process. As a retired principal, I encountered children who had been abused.  As difficult as it was for me to learn what had happened to them and then report to the proper agencies, there was much more anguish for these…

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A Proper English Lunch and a Great Mystery!

Foodie Lit Definition: a genre of novels & memoirs filled with stories and recipes Join Susan as she shares he reviews and fantastic recipes! Have you ever walked into a room and think, “I’ve been here before,” or met a person and feel, “I’ve met this person before,” but you haven’t.  Yet that connection remains. And that is how the novel, When the Clocks Stopped begins. This is not your typical time travel novel, but rather the creation of a ”chat room” between eras, where characters do not go back and live in another time, but nonetheless through multi-layered and intertwined time lines, interact together. Hazel Hawkins lives in 1976, Annie in 1747. Both live in Cottage House on Romney Marsh.  We know from the beginning of the novel that this house is special. “I think this house likes us,” Hazel’s husband Bruce says to her, as if the house has a personality or is a character in itself. Author Marion (M.L.) Eaton told me, “Rose Cottage is based on the cottage that my Australian husband and I bought in Lydd (thinly disguised in the novel as Rype) in 1975… Rose Cottage not only had its own character, its atmosphere was truly…

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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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