The Girl on theTrain

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

the girl on the trainToday I hoped for heavier traffic so I could finish listening The Girl on theTrain.  If you were a fan of Gone Girl, this is your next read.  Rachel rides the same train every day back and forth; she is lonely, tormented, and desperate.  As she rides the train from her small town to London each day, she gazes at the back gardens of all the homes.  She starts to notice the same people each day, she begins to create caricatures in her mind of who they are, what they might be like.  Then one day she sees something; something disturbing and suspicious, and the story gets very interesting.  Three women’s lives intertwine, each one battling their own demons, each one not quite what she seems.  This book is quietly thrilling because no one is easy to figure out, no one is all good or all bad, but some very bad things happen.  Girl on a Train is not a cuddly feel good story, it is dark and gritty, but the suspense at the end is impeccably written.  The tension will grip you to the core, if you need a plane or beach read, pick it up.  If you are fan of intensity, suspense, and thrillers, you will like it.

To Purchase from Amazon, click here: The Girl on the Train

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

queenie hennessy_

Rachel Joyce wrote a companion book to her best-selling book, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.’ Her hit book in which the main character Harold Fry walks across England to see his old friend Queenie Hennessey before she dies.  In her newest novel, ‘The Love Song of Queenie Hennessey’ we meet Queenie and hear her story.  Joyce is a beautiful writer and creates very strong characterization, but I would have preferred to not know Queenie’s story. It was a very sad tale, and I was left feeling devastated at the end of this new installment.  I loved the story of Harold Fry because it was quirky and heartfelt.  There were sad times, yet covered over with healing, and sprinkled with dusting of hope that the rainbow was just up around the bend. This book was much darker and tragic.  If you liked Harold Fry I would recommend stopping with his journey.

However, you really should read the first installment.  Here is the review and link for her first book.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce 

The Unlikely Pilgramage of harold fryFrom start to finish I enjoyed the tale of Harold Fry and his Unlikely Pilgrimage.  Harold and his wife exist, but do not live; they function, but do not thrive.  It is as if a large gray cloud cover their lives with gray and shadows and they have accepted their drab life.  Unexpectedly Harold receives a letter from an old friend.   Queenie, is terminally ill in a town across the country.   He gets the letter, and begins to walk to see his old friend.  Without a  plan, and a lousy pair of shoes upon his feet, he just walks.   The strange pilgrimage shocks and frustrates his wife, but Harold begins to collect a small following to cheer him on.  Pretty soon the whole country of England begins to rally for Harold to make it to see his old friend Queenie.  Harold sets out searching to find closure with an old friend, but the journey leads him to a vastly different destination.  This is a sweet story, honest, and well written.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:    The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel

2014 Best Book Awards

Well, everyone has their top ten lists of 2014 out, so here are some best awards I created for some favorite books of 2014.  I gave awards to 10 books I found true delight in. If they have been reviewed here before, I gave a truncated version of the review. Put some on your list for next year, or just enjoy reading my bests.  What did you love reading this year?  Please tell me in the comments.

Best Book about a Long WalkThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce: The Unlikely Pilgramage of harold fryA man learns an old friend is dying on the other side of England.  He literally just starts walking to her without even changing his shoes or grabbing a sack lunch.  A good read all in all.

To Order click here: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: A Novel

Best Non-Fiction Book:  Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan.

dad is fatA man loves his wife and children and makes their daily lives extremely hilarious in the written form.   When Jim Gaffigan was asked as a child why he was so white, he would reply, “My Dad was a Q-tip.”  That is funny people.

To Order, click here: Dad Is Fat

Best Book Where Bunnies Wear Platform Shoes:  Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvath  mr and mrs bunnyThis children’s mystery is delightful, odd, and very funny.  Adults should read it, and if you have children in your general vicinity you should read it to them, together.

To Order, click here: Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinaire!

Best Book Written from an Animal’s Perspective: The One and Only Ivan  by Katherine Applegate.  

the one and only ivanThis is the true story of a gorilla kept in the Tacoma mall for most of his life.  Most Northwest natives know this history, but I missed out on this by growing up in the Rocky Mountains.  I only saw old abandoned gold mines when I was a kid.  However, most locals know the story of Ivan and his rescue from the mall to a zoo in Atlanta.  I loved it; it speaks of the dichotomy of human nature, and how we care for and sometimes miss-treat animals.

To Order, click here:  The One and Only Ivan

Best Book with a Genius Female Character: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson the girl who saved the king of sweden  Girl lives in Africa and manages the latrines; it is gross job with grosser male co-workers.  She is a secret genius and ends up traveling across half the world, and out-smarting a ton of pompous men along the way.  She meets a very nice twin named Two, and helps save the King of Sweden.  It is quirky, indescribable, creative, and full of twists and turns.  I loved the quiet genius of it, a bit of an off-the-beaten path book.     To Order, click here: The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden: A Novel

Best Book About Women Having Cool Jobs During World War IIThe All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg.  the all girl filling stationListen to Ms. Flagg read this to you on Audiobook, I love her southern drawl and charm.  This was a sweet little read; it makes you want to eat some fried chicken and hug your lady friends.  Also, it is fun to hear about women taking over men’s jobs when they are away at war and rocking it hard core.

To Order, click here: The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion: A Novel

Best Historical Fiction:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer  All the light we cannot seeAnthony Doer deserved all the praise and accolades he received for taking ten years to write this novel of World War II.  It was sweet, hard, engrossing, and a fantastic book.  If you liked The Book Thief you should read this.  Most likely my favorite read this year.

To Order, click here: All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel

Best Book with a Grumpy ProtagonistA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backmana man called ove      Ove is old and angry, however, his heart is wide and caring in the most unexpected ways.   I loved this book; it has subtle humor and very rich characters.  It is hard to describe the beauty of it, except to say I missed it when it was over and it made me feel deeply as I read.  Some of it is sad, but I found it a superb read.

To Order click here: A Man Called Ove: A Novel

Best 80’s Love Story:  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.    Eleanor and Park If Pretty in Pink morphed itself into a young adult novel, this would be it.  Girl feels awkward, boy feels awkward, and they meet on the bus.  It is awkward and then they listen to 80’s music and it is not as awkward.  Two people that feel unlovable fall in love with each other.  Swoon.

To Order on Amazon, click here: eleanor and park kindle edition

Best Book about a Book Store:  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry byThe storied life of A.J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin  Man runs a book store on an island.  Woman from a publishing company comes to sell him books, he is rude to her.  He gets a baby dropped at his front door and his whole life changes.  Loved it.

To Order, click here: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel

Five Reads for Foodies

This fall I repeatedly stumbled upon books about food that were irresistible.  I devoured one after another, some about Seattle, some from around the globe, and some fiction, but all were wonderful reads.  In the spirit of the holidays and breaking bread to celebrate, here are my favorite foodie reads.

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

the hundred food journeyThe Hundred Foot Journey is about an Indian family struggling to start a restaurant, and a French woman struggling to keep her restaurant on top.  However, the true heart of this tale is about facing loss, overcoming prejudice, anger, and jealousy.  It is the story of crossing over into a place where a person is pressed and stretched beyond comfort, but made into a stronger and better person.  The book is finely written and the characterization is impeccable.  You will be able to taste the curries as you read, your mouth will water with the fine French cooking described in intricate detail.  To truly know what real food is and where it comes from; one must travel to small French towns and see the people slaughter, harvest, and cook earth’s bounty with their own eyes. By reading this book you can experience that journey through the rich prose.  The Hundred Foot Journey is rich with family loyalty, sprinkled with a love story, and finished with a dessert of redemption.

To Order this book on Amazon, click here:

The Hundred-Foot Journey

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

The school of Essential IngredientsBlending food and literature can be tricky.  Sometimes food fiction can fall too heavy on the food description side, with a weak storyline.  Other times, the use of food as an element in the story is contrived, and seems unnatural.  However, The School of Essential Ingredients blends these two elements seamlessly.

Lillian, the main character, owns a restaurant and teaches cooking classes in the evenings. A cast of characters walk through her doors, all seeking to learn to cook, but needing much more than a simple lesson in sautéing and basting.  Each person’s story is told, and they eventually find what they are looking for at The School of Essential Ingredients.  Lillian teaches her students more than just cooking, she instills in them passion for food and how to harness its power.   The lives of Lillian and her students are woven in among garlic, butter, spices, flour, and meat.   Her descriptions of recipes, food science, and life cycles are eased into the story with poetic grace.  The characters in the story evoke empathy and move from one emotional place to another.  A well told story.

To Order this Book on Amazon, click here:

The School of Essential Ingredients

A Boat, A Whale, and a Walrus by Renee Erikson 

A boat a whaleI needed one more book for this post, so this evening I sat down and read A Boat, A Whale, and A Walrus from cover to cover.  Yes, I read a cookbook in one sitting, and I delighted in every word.  I confess I did not read every recipe word for word, but every personal story, anecdote, or informative lesson I read; word for word.

Years ago at the end of my college days here in Seattle my friend and I stumbled upon the Boat Street Café.  The original restaurant was tucked away in between Fremont and the University of Washington, close to the shore of Lake Union.  We were young, broke, and had no exposure to high culinary experiences.  We both still vividly remember it, I ate a poached egg for the first time, and we reveled in the delicate flavors.  We were impressed with the simplicity and loveliness of the quaint white restaurant with understated wooden tables.

Now Erikson has four restaurants in Seattle and is a local icon.  Her book gives due credit to her sources for local ingredients, for oysters, honey, meat, and produce.  She brings to life the people that supply food to her restaurants through story and photographs.  Erikson teaches how to cook octopus, choose the finest ingredients, and make anchovy butter.  Additionally, she explains how herring is caught, processed, and distributed, what capers actually are, and how to properly smoke salmon. The cookbook includes many recipes from her restaurants, which range from obscure to plain and simple.  The photographs are lovely and create a warm narrative of food, family and friendship over the dinner table.  This book is a perfect gift for a food lover or cook.

To Order this Book on Amazon, click here:

A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories

Delicious! By Ruth Reichl 

deliciousDelicious! is part New York City history, part food industry history, and part library mystery.  What is a library mystery?  Read the book my friend.

An old mansion holds the offices of Delicious, a well-established food magazine.  Billy, the main character gets a job writing for Delicious, and lands right in the middle of the New York City food scene.   She has a perfect palate, an incredible ability to bake, but old wounds hold her back from her full potential.  This book is part historical fiction, and has a story within a story.  James Beard, the renowned chef, culinary writer, and educator makes an appearance.  His life is woven into the history of Delicious through letters found from World War II.  Delicious! is not strictly a food meets fiction story; it is a detailed account through lives past and present.  It was a bit long, but has interesting plot twists that came together in a satisfying ending.

To Order this Book on Amazon, click here:

Delicious!: A Novel

Yes, Chef! by Marcus Samuelsson 

Yes-Chef-BookcoverNon-fiction as a whole is hard for me to read, but I press on, and try to make sure I am not living in a fantasy land all the time.  I walked into Yes, Chef without knowing anything about Samuelsson’s life.  Samuelsson was born in Ethiopia, grew up in Sweden, and now lives in Harlem.  His life has been full of perseverance and extremely hard work.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was slow at times, but I learned a plethora of information about fine cuisine, restaurant management, and cooking techniques around the world. I never knew how dangerous working in a professional kitchen is; losing a finger is a more than a reality.   My favorite section of Yes, Chef was learning how he re-created and revitalized The Red Rooster in Harlem. I was inspired by his passion for Harlem and giving any employee willing to work hard a chance.  Marcus never forgot where he came from and strives to serve his community.  I enjoyed the audio version of this book because Samuelsson is the reader.  The audio version provides a feel for Samuelsson’s heritage and passion through his accent, and the cadences of his speech. I considered it time well spent.

To Purchase this book from Amazon, click here:

Yes, Chef: A Memoir