Friday, June 24, 2011

Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie (Rebecca Charles and Deborah DiClementi)

I just love cookbooks that combine recipes with stories of family. Food and family are two "F" words that go together. It is no coincidence that the traditions that many of us enjoy with our families combine the two. Such is the case with Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie: Three Generations of Recipes and Stories from Summers on the Coast of Maine.

Having never been to Maine, I lived vicariously through this book. Rebecca Charles is currently the owner and head chef of Pearl Oyster Bar in Greenwich Village. The namesake of the restaurant is Pearle Goldsmith, Rebecca's grandmother. Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie recounts the Goldsmith's summers in Kennebunkport, from the time Rebecca's great uncle Sam first took the family there to Rebecca's weeks there now. The pictures in the book are worth the price alone. Seeing the male striped bathing suits in the early 1900s makes you realize just how much things have changed. Charles also includes shocking stories about Jewish prejudice in Maine at this time and the heroes who dared to stand up to it.

I have not tried any of the recipes yet, but I am most looking forward to trying Pearle's Shortbread. This is not so much a cookbook as it is an extremely heartwarming, worthwhile memoir of summers gone by.


Jemima J (Jane Green)

After reviewing the outstanding Promises to Keep, I immediately e-mailed Jane Green to let her know how much I enjoyed it. I have contacted quite a few authors in the past, including Allison Winn Scotch and Suzan Colon, who couldn't be nicer. However, they are not quite as prolific and famous as Green. Much to my surprise, she e-mailed me back within minutes to let me know that it was a beautiful review. I so appreciate when authors (especially famous ones) e-mail their readers. Since Promises was the first book I ever read by Jane Green, I decided to try out her other ones, starting with Jemima J.

This is the story of Jemima Jones, an overweight journalist living in London. Jemima is funny and charismatic, but as we know, in this world looks matter. She is desperately in love with her colleague, Ben, who, though kind to her, does not look at her twice. Since this novel was published in the last century, the internet is just becoming popular (remember dial-up?). Jemima becomes fascinated with it and meets California Brad, the most beautiful man she has ever seen, in a chat room. When Brad asks Jemima for a picture as well, she must think fast. After pulling something together (her face without double chins on a model's body), Brad invites her to California. Will she go? What will happen when she gets there?

Promises to Keep is truly in a class by itself as far as I am concerned. Jemima J was not my favorite. I find it odd that the back states "With a fast-paced plot that never quits and a surprise ending no reader will see coming...". I'm sorry, but this reader saw it coming from a mile away. Green also has an annoying habit of writing in the first person (as Jemima) in one section, then writing in the third person as a Greek chorus in the next. Enjoy this at the beach, but don't expect anything out of it.


The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie (Wendy McClure)

My husband and I just got back from the beautiful city of Montreal on a short vacation. We save money in other areas so that we can go on some nice vacations (Last year's Bermuda cruise was quite memorable.). Out of all of the places I visited, where have I enjoyed going the most you ask? Walnut Grove, Minnesota and Plum Creek...a home of the legendary Laura Ingalls Wilder. Wendy McClure and I seem to have been bred from the same cloth, as both of us are obsessed with Little House on the Prairie (She more so with the with the books and TV show.). This book is perfect for Little House fans like me, but really no one else.

This book is quite the extensive travelogue. McClure and her husband (my husband, being from Minnesota, was dragged along to Walnut Grove as well) decide to do everything Laura Ingalls Wilder, from churning butter to making foods she would have eaten. They travel to sites in the middle of nowhere to see the places she would have lived. Surprisingly, not many of her homes are still in existence. Many are replicas. Along the way, McClure learns about herself, having some revelations about why she is actually taking the trip.

I can completely understand this book, as I would be gung ho for a trip like this as well. I have never felt more peaceful then being on the banks of Plum Creek in the middle of nowhere. Knowing that you are wading in the same creek as Laura in her books takes you back to her time. I heartily recommend this book for true Laura fans.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Don't Breathe a Word (Jennifer McMahon)

The trademark of Jennifer McMahon's books are "creepy-looking children" on the cover (Think Village of the Damned). I have often wondered if the kids who pose for the covers are told that they are supposed to have a "creepy child" face. I think I would be rather insulted. Oh well...on with it.

Don't Breathe a Word is a dark, sinister, unsettling book that makes your heart beat just a little faster. McMahon has a rather twisted mind, and it shows deeply here. Phoebe and Sam are a couple with a history. Sam is the brother of Lisa, a young girl who disappeared many years before searching for the Fairy King, Teilo. Strange phone messages and notes begin to be delivered to Sam and Edie, their cousin, supposedly coming from Lisa...."I am back from the land of the fairies. I'll be seeing you soon." Is this truly Lisa, or is someone playing a dark, twisted trick on everyone involved?

This book is well-written for about the first three-quarters, and then just gets too implausible for me. The ending was deeply unsatisfying, especially because I normally love McMahon's books. While certainly not my favorite (I didn't want to do anything else on my cruise vacation except read Island of the Lost Girls.), if you would like a twisted read, this may be the book for you.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Promises to Keep (Jane Green)

As the hot weather begins to come in full force in Philly, it is natural for readers to want to get away from the "heavy hitter" lit and get into something mindless. That is what I thought I was getting when I picked up Jane Green's Promises to Keep. What I got was much, much more and truly made me weep.

Promises to Keep is Green's 11th novel. It begins with a sister, Steffi, who is struggling to find her way in the world in love and career. We then meet Callie, Steffi's older sister, who the reader jarringly finds out later, is in remission from breast cancer. Along the way, we also meet Lila, Callie's best friend; Steffi and Callie's divorced parents, Honor and Walter; Reece, Callie's devoted husband and father of her two adorable children; and Mason, a man who knows deep down that his life is not what he wants it to be, but doesn't quite know how to change it.

When Callie shockingly finds out that her cancer has returned, her family and friends pull together in a way they wouldn't have thought possible. I found myself relating the novel to Steel Magnolias (only with men included). In fact, my favorite line in that movie is by Dolly Parton. "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." At times laugh-out-loud funny, at times heartbreakingly sad, this is a beautiful story of what could happen when life suddenly turns upside down.


This review can also be found on