Foodie Lit

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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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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