The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

avalavender__spanAva Lavender is born with a set of wings. This peculiar feature leads her to ponder her family roots. The is the premise of the magical and tragic story of Ava’s heritage. I loved the rich language and the odd events which marked each person’s life in the Lavender family. I am a lover of Seattle history and stories set in our rain soaked city. The story follows generations of Ava’s ancestors, and what lead them to carve out a living in early Seattle. Love lost and found is the thread that follows all of Ava’s ancestors through their lives. This book makes you feel the rich beauty of green mossy landscapes, seasons of bright daffodils, and the relentless Northwest grey sky. Ava’s story is sad, redemptive, and lovely. Its core message reflects upon what we do for love, the cage of heartache, and learning to fly free again. I loved this story, the magical realism is perfection, and the story is whimsically beautiful.

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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy

I love you moreA man with a closet full of secrets can only keep them hidden so long.  Sooner or later your wife finds out a secret, discovers things don’t add up, and your house of cards comes falling down piece by piece. Unless you don’t let it fall.  In this fast paced, story we first meet Diane, beautiful and put together, mother of a daughter named Picasso. She is married to Oliver, desperately in love, yet desperately unhappy. You cannot quite figure out what is going in her marriage, and either can Diane. The story is told from the perspective of Diane, Picasso, and a small town detective.  If you liked Gone Girl you will love the twists and turns and psychological layers. However, I thought this book far surpassed Gone Girl in writing, character development, and depth. The writing is fresh, beautiful, and creative. The pacing and plot are impeccable.  The story is told by different characters, the reader gains the perspective of the story from many different angles. This is the best murder mystery I have read in a long time, I could not walk away from it until it was over. It is haunting, masterful, and a stunning success.

To Purchase this book on Amazon, click here: I Love You More

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Yes, Chef: A Memoir

5 Books for Children Adults Shouldn’t Miss

Some of the most poignant literature and rich narrative take place in novels written for the young.  I have picked five books that are superbly written with creative plots. There are many books that will never get the full credit or voice they deserve.  Some of these titles you may have read, some you may have never heard of.  Please give each a chance; they are wonderfully written and quality literature for young and old alike.

Four Rubbings (The Stone Witch Series) by Jennifer L. Hotes

Four RubbingsThis is the debut novel by a local Seattle area author.  There were many things I appreciated about this young adult novel.  It takes place in Seattle, so she had me at chapter one.  It incorporates the history of the Seattle area, so she had me hooked.

Four Rubbings tells the story of four childhood friends and their relationship with a local cemetery. The grounds keeper for the cemetery and the lives of these four friends collide one Halloween night.  Josie, the main character is wrestling in adolescence, having lost her mother.  Grace, the care-taker has separated herself from life and lives among the stones of Lakeview Cemetery. Josie and her four friends enter the cemetery on Halloween and encounter the super-natural.  Four Rubbings made me think about healing, and feel moved by Josie and her longing for answers and peace.  This book is perfect for a rainy fall; and a good pick for a lover of mystical books with a backdrop of spook.  What I loved about this book is that it is the story of four life-long friends, there is no tacky romance, no zombie love, but just authentic friendship told well with a little fright.  Four Rubbings makes you want to walk through the head stones and ponder life, death, and everything in between.  The next book in the series comes out this spring.

Give it a try and click on the link to order it from amazon:

Four Rubbings (The Stone Witch Series) (Volume 1)

Herbert by Chadwick Gillenwater

HerbertA fly that wants to make honey, how sweet of a premise is that?  It is a wonderful premise that makes a more wonderful story.  Little Herbert is a fly that lives in the dump with his filthy family.  He does not like garbage and does not fit in with his slop loving siblings.  Herbert literally carves out a nice life for himself in the center of an old peach pit.  This is his sanctuary and place of refuge where he studies the art of honey making and perfects his recipe.  Herbert goes on a great journey in search of his dreams and a new life.  He meets many funny characters along the way and battles many enemies trying to find the Queen Bee.  This is a lovely little tale that will make you feel good, believe in your dreams, and cheer for those that follow where their heart leads.  It is a great grown up read, but also meant for children.  If I had a child or a classroom of children age 5-8 I would read this out loud with them.  It is also a safe choice for your 2nd– 5th grader to read (depending on their reading level).  Children will find it fun, it is clean, and a fine tale.

You can only find this self-published book on amazon, please click here to order it.


Mr. and Mrs. Bunny- Detectives Extraordinaire! By Mrs. Bunny

Translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath

mr and mrs bunnyMadeline is a motivated whip smart young girl with earth loving hippy parents in a community of home-schoolers.  She wants desperately to go to school, so she takes the ferry every day from her home on Vancouver Island to the public school.  Madeline is seeking out her dreams one day at a time until her parents go missing.  Luckily, she meets a pair of bunnies who have purchased new fedoras in hopes of becoming detectives.  Together they set out on a journey to find her parents and solve the islands latest mystery.  This book is so full of delightful oddities and quirky banter; you will adore the story and eccentric characters.  Mr. and Mrs. Bunny display the quintessential long term relationship, children will laugh, but adults will truly find the humor in their daily problems and discussions.  Sophie Blackall did all the illustrations; they are beautifully detailed and add to the story.  I loved everything about this funny little story.  It is fantastic to read aloud but adults will love it as well.

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Mr. and Mrs. Bunny–Detectives Extraordinaire!

Wildwood by Colin Meloy

wildwood pb cover I have a deep adoration of the Pacific Northwest.  My soul grows green and mossy and takes comfort in the drippy days of our winter rain.  Wildwood is set in Portland in the large wooded park outside of the city.  Prue, a young girl takes her baby brother on a walk one day and he is snatched by a murder of ruthless crows.  Prue must go into the wood to save her brother.  The magical land of Wildwood inhabits a witch, talking animals and battles of good and evil.  You will weep with Prue as she carries the burden of not being able to protect her baby brother. Even adults need to get lost in worlds of magic, and this is the perfect novel to escape in through the winter.   The language of this book is melodic and written in superb prose.  Colin is a master story-teller and the illustrations, drawn by his wife are breath-taking.  Both are remarkably talented and Wildwood is a fantastic book.

After reading Wildwood I saw Colin Meloy and his wife do a book talk about creating the book.  She knitted while he talked, they bantered and out-witted each other as they told stories of their childhoods that led them to the writing of Wildwood.  They each showed photos of writing or drawing they had done as kids.  The focus of their talk was on how the work of children leads to the work you do as an adult.  Their talk has stuck with me, and this book has as well.

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Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book I

The Odd Fellows Orphanage by Emily Winfield Martin

Oddfellows OrphanageOdd children attend the Odd Fellows Orphanage, but the joy of this book is the life they get to lead because of the kind hearted headmaster who started the orphanage.  A boy with an onion head, a tattooed girl, and other children with oddities get to live and make friends at the most unique place for children you will ever find.  They attend school with classes on fairy tales and take field trips to view sea monsters.  They have magnificent holiday parties and creatively solve problems of how to make home-made gifts for your best friend bunk mate without them knowing.  The Odd Fellows Orphanage is so full of whimsy and delight, my only sadness in reading it was when it came to an end.

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Oddfellow’s Orphanage

Finding this book felt Serendipitous for me.  I had ordered a print from Etsy years ago of two children in a quaint glass dome.  This summer I stumbled upon a beginning chapter book with familiar illustrations. It was the very same artist Emily Winfield Martin.  She turned her small illustrations and vignettes of imagined orphaned lives and made them into a unique novel for children.

Here is a picture of the print that hangs in my bathroom:

bathroom photo

Seattle Food Writer- Molly Wizenberg

Molly Wizenberg also deserves her own post, she is a local Seattle Restaurant owner, blogger, writer, and mother.  I highly reccomend reading both of her books, good fall reading, great for food lovers, seattle lovers, paris lovers, or anyone with a heart, soul, or palette.

My sweet friend Kim recently called this blog, my shop around the corner.  I consider that a high compliment, not only because it was Meg Ryan at her peak, but because it represents pursuing the stirrings of your soul.  Molly Wiezenberg’s books are her shop around the corner.  The restaurant Delancy is the shop around the corner their marriage built.  I have loved reading her journey of life through food, love, book writing, and restaurant building.

She captures the essence of following your dreams through the exciting and weary times.  She is honest, but never whiny, humorous, but never snarky.  I read Delancy in one day.  This avid reader has never finished a non-fiction book in that time frame.  These books are delicious slices of life.

A Homemade Life

A Homemade LifeTo finish this book I sat down on a Sunday night with a glass of wine, a plate lined with small rectangles of unusual cheese, and a hunk of bread ripped in half; half to eat with the cheese, half smeared with butter, a dessert of sorts.  A Homemade Life is rich and delightful.  The book reads like a story, but set in a land of delicious eats.  Molly tells the story of her life one recipe at a time.  It never lags, it never feel forced or contrived.  Her love story flows out of her shared love of food with her sweet and charming husband.  You will want to eat, cook, drink, love, and live boldly after you read this book.  I never buy books, I am a strict library patron, but I need this book on my shelf.  I am bringing her Apples Tarte Tatin to our book club this week.  I am thankful she suggests using pastry dough from Trader Joe’s, and I am anxious to try her fennel salad and Ratatouille.  When the author met her husband her friend cheered her on saying, “Don’t stop now.  This is the bread and butter! This is what it is all about.” I smiled as I finished the book and finished my bread and butter in my cozy home on a Sunday night.  This book is bread and butter.  Savor it to the end.

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A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table


Delancey_coverGetting to experience Delancy was a practice in patience. I saw this book on the Seattle Public Library website and requested it.  I was number 184 in line. I waited from April to October to get my copy.   Then a friend asked me if I wanted to go to dinner at Delancy, she had heard it was good. It is a small pizza place in a tucked away Seattle Neighborhood.    We tried to go on a Saturday night, an hour wait.  We went to a neighborhood pub.  We went back on a Saturday night, prepared for a wait, and we waited 45 minutes.   The pizza was worth it, totally and completely worth it. I wanted a group of my great girlfriend’s to come and experience the pizza with me, we set a date.  I got there an hour early, put our name in, and then read in my car by flashlight for an hour.  We waited another hour for the diners before us to finish their pizza and chit-chat over coffee.  The wonderful hostess that handles the front playfully suggested we stare them down a bit.  I did.  They sipped their coffee.

Delancy, the book and the restaurant, were worth the wait.  I was enchanted by the story of their unrelenting determination to open their own little pizza place.  Many books I have read lately are about the pursuit of deep rooted dreams.  Delancy is the story of the dream to bring impeccably delectable wood fired pizza to Seattle.   I truly respect the people of Seattle with vision that make old things new and restore instead of destruct.  Molly and her husband do exactly that.   I felt a kinship with this book, at first I thought it is because I am Seattle resident; the story takes place in a ten mile radius from my home.  However, it is the story, not the setting that draws you in as a reader.  Regardless of where you live, the story is poignant, and reads like a novel.  It leaves you with a feeling of contentment and inspiration to pursue your relentless desires.   You will cheer for Molly and her husband.  Go to Delancy, you will dream of the White Pie long after it is finished.

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Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage