2013 Sizzling Summer Reads #2 - Feasting on Fiction

Fabri Prize-winner Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder opens in 1819 when the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. He works miracles in creating culinary masterpieces with the meager supplies on board the Flying Rose, tantalizing her with the likes of tea-smoked eel and brewed pineapple-banana cider as he watches her pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox.

"Brown concocts a clever tale in which history, ethics, action, and romance blend harmoniously." "(S)izzling and swashbuckling".

Susan Rebecca White's A Place at the Table is inspired by the stories of chefs Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, in which she tells the story of 3 troubled souls finding their way and making a place for themselves through the magic of the big city and a love of cooking.

Alice Stone, an African American girl growing up in North Carolina, whose upbringing was marked by racism; Bobby Banks, a gay man from Georgia, is ostracized by his conservative family and friends; and Amelia Brighton, whose privileged life is turned upside down by her husband's infidelity and a mysterious family secret. As the novel unfolds, these three are drawn together at a tiny café in New York City.

"With unforgettable characters, rich detail, and seamless narration,... (it) will long remain in the reader's mind and memory, a gentle reminder of the importance of acceptance in all its forms and the myriad connections that surround us."

Whitney Gaskell's Table for Seven is an entertaining tale of a monthly dinner club. It interweaves the lives of two couples - Fran and Will, Jaime and Mark; Audrey, a young widow; Leland, an elderly neighbor, and the extremely attractive, man-about-town bachelor, Coop.

A series of dramatic crises force the dinner club members to confront their own flaws and work on their lives. "Gaskell has mastered the art of putting the fun in dysfunctional."

2013 Sizzling Summer Reads #1 - Something to go with the heat

In National Book Award finalist Ken Kalfus's intellectual comedy Equilateral *, at the turn of the 20th Century, an obsessed British astronomer undertakes an massive project to build the Equilateral, a triangle in the Egyptian desert to signal to the highly evolved beings alive on Mars. But as work progresses, the local workers, a violent outbreak of malaria complicate matters while he himself is ensnared in a triangle of another sort - between his secretary who does not suffer fools, and Binta, a houseservant he covets but can't communicate with.

"Equilateral is written with a subtle, sly humor, but it's also a model of reserve and historical accuracy; it's about many things, including Empire and colonization and exploration; it's about "the other" and who that other might be. We would like to talk to the stars, and yet we can barely talk to each other."

If you enjoyed Overseas, Beatriz Williams's debut, you would not want to miss A Hundred Summers. 1938, Seaview (RI) where the Manhattan Danes and the Brynes have summered for decades, saw a reunion between former best friends Lily Dane and Budgie Greenwald who is now married to Nick, Lily's former fiance, and the charming Graham Pendleton, a celebrated Yankees pitcher recuperating from an injury.

Under the scorching summer sun, fueled with enough gin and gossips, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick's marriage bubbled to the surface just as a cataclysmic hurricane barreled unseen up the Atlantic. Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which would change their worlds forever.

Winner of a Costa Novel Award, Maggie O'Farrell bring us a beguiling family drama set during the legendary British heatwave of 1976 in Instructions for a Heatwave.

When Gretta Riordan's husband of 40 year went out for the paper on a sultry July morning and never returned, her three grown children converged on the family home for the first time in years. They each harbored secrets they were desperate to hide, even from those who loved them best, until the crisis at hand brought them together with hard-won, life-changing truths.

"Sophisticated, intelligent, and impossible to put down".

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #412

Big Girl Panties * by Stephanie Evanovich is one of the most anticipated debut this summer. Being released this coming week, it won't surprise me to see it hit every bestseller list and as many sand chairs.

In this contemporary take on My Fair Lady meets The Biggest Loser, recently widowed Holly Brennan, 32, is seriously afraid of flying. Logan Montgomery is seriously hoping she won't sit down on the seat next to him on a flight from Toronto where he has just finished a personal training session with one of his superstar athlete clients.

Well, you guessed it. Holly is mortified having to wedge her sweaty obese self into the coach seat next to this gorgeous Adonis while Logan is surprised to find he is actually charmed by Holly's sharp wit after the initial chagrin. In a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, Logan offers to get her back in shape. Before either of them can stop it, the easy intimacy of their training sessions leads to even more steamy workouts away from the gym. But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn't fit his ideal? A "chubby- cherub" who will never see a single-digit dress size? Or would the "ugly duckling" have a few wise tricks up her fluffy boa (wink wink) for the "swan"?

A rollicking, sensuous, feel-good romantic comedy that takes on the issues of body image, eating disorder, self-acceptance and actualization.

"Quality writing, memorable characters, hot sex scenes, and an emotionally satisfying story add up to a marvelous gem".

* = starred review

Writers' Summer Reads

It should come as no surprise that many writers are voracious and thoughtful readers.

Recently, Real Simple magazine asked 12 bestselling authors to share their Favorite Summer Books - from One-Day Reads, Book for Long Weekends; Books to Savor All Summer. They even stick their necks out and share their Good and Trashy picks. They are: Augusten Burroughs, Jackie Collins, Nelson DeMille, Janet Evanovich, Linda Fairstein, Elizabeth Gilbert, Philippa Gregory, Sophie Kinsella, Debbie Macomber, James Patterson, Jodi Picoult and Danielle Steel.

Not to be outdone, School Library Journal asked children's authors like Kevin Henkes and Graeme Base "What’s On Your Summer Reading List?"

The New York Time asked 12 writers to recall their most memorable experiences of summer reading in an article entitled What I Read That Summer. Among them, Louise Erdrich, Walter Isaacson, Pico Iyer, Alexander McCall Smith, Ayana Mathis, Christopher Buckley, Junot Díaz, Chelsea Cain, and Cheryl Strayed.

Enjoy your stay at Pines

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke wakes up on a roadside with initially no recollection of how he got there, but knowing that he is badly injured. As he walks into the idyllic town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, some memories start to surface. He eventually recalls that he and his partner (wherever he is) were on their way to this town to locate two missing federal agents, but their car was struck by a semi. But does he have any proof of who he really is? of course not...Anyway to contact family or work? not a chance (although he tries!)...More mystery and suspense, not to mention a bit of horror and just plain weirdness, meld together into a book that is difficult to put down. If you like the writing stylings of Cormac McCarthy and the eerie storytelling of a Stephen King, then you will love Blake Crouch's Pines ! If you are interested to know more about the author check out his website, http://www.blakecrouch.com

He comments in the afterword that this story was inspired by his favorite TV show, Twin Peaks. And yes the story does take place in a beautiful small-town with odd folks in it and as he says, "...a pitch-black underbelly.", but his story goes somewhere altogether different...

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #342

In Maggie Shipstead's debut Seating Arrangements, Winn Van Meter (New England blue blood), as he makes his way to his Waskeke island home for his (very pregnant) daughter Daphne's wedding, observes that the weekend is "not a straightforward exercise in familial peacekeeping and obligatory cheer but a treacherous puzzle, full of opportunities for wrong thing to be said and done". He should know!

In the next three days, this pristine family retreat and haven of calm will be overrun by bombshell bridesmaids, sulky siblings, old rivals, new in-laws, uninvited guests, and unforeseen circumstances. All the arrangements, planned with military precision by Winn's wife Biddy, are side-swept by forced proximity, the constant flow of alcohol, salacious misbehavior, intractable lust, and tangled history.

"Hilarious, keenly intelligent", Shipstead's irresistible social satire is "a piercing rumination on desire, on love and its obligations, and on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life".

Maggie Shipstead is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. In a recent interview, she shared that Seating Arrangements "is far from the traditional 'wedding novel' : I think this book is on the darker side of a wedding novel. Characters behave badly and grapple with regrets and doubts. The action…lurks around the periphery of their celebration.' "

Readalike for J. Courtney Sullivan's Maine (2011), a novel about family, fidelity, and social class; and the new release by Mark Haddon The Red House (2012) where estranged siblings and their families come together for one week in an English country house.

Summer Reading 2012

Want to play the game this summer? Sign up here.

Looking for reading suggestions? Here are some of my favorite resources:

No one does a better job than NPR. This Complete List has it all. Of special interest is Nancy Pearl Unearths Great Summer Reads. A good time to explore some "unjustly dusty" titles.

I always check out "My Guilty Pleasure" where writers talk about the books they love but are embarrassed to be seen reading.

I won't judge so go ahead, knock yourself out with L.A. Times list of Beach Reads. Hey, don't forget to check out the quirky ones.

If you are into regional literature, try suggestions from Deep South Magazine, an online magazine and blog committed to being a forum for Southern writers and showcasing Southern literature.

For the studious overachievers, there is always the UC Berkeley’s Summer Reading List for Freshmen. They promised that it isn’t homework. Ha! And you believe them? Each year, Berkeley asks the faculty and staff to offer what they think are the best readings centered on a particular theme. This year’s theme is “Revolutions.”

Seriously, do take a look at Publishers Weekly's Best Summer Books. Now you know what is in my beach bag.

Heading off to summer camp? Horn Book wants to make sure you go with some good reads.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #331


Wife 22 * * is "smart, fresh, entertaining, moving and incredibly funny" (I can't say it any better) and perhaps, one of the best Women's Fiction titles this year.

Let's see how YOU would answer the following questions:

#10 Do you believe love can last?
#44 What do you believe should NOT be done in public?
#50 If your spouse gave you one free pass to have sex with another person, who would you choose?
#80 Define passion in one sentence
#88 Has your life turned out the way you would hoped it would?

Like these? Thankfully, debut novelist Melanie Gideon (author of The Slippery Year: A meditation on happily ever after: a memoir, and 2 YA novels: Pucker and The Map That Breathed) provides in an appendix these 110 questions - some survey-generic, some philosophical & probing, some downright invasive but all seriously provocative.

Alice Buckle: spouse of William, mother to Zoe and Peter, part-time drama teacher and Facebook chatter, downloader of memories and Googler of solutions is also "Wife 22". Readers will be privy to her honest and witty response to an anonymous survey on marital satisfaction. Over time, her correspondence with Researcher 101 has taken an unexpectedly personal turn, and soon, she comes dangerously close to making a decision that will affect more than her happiness.

Rights sold to 19 countries and optioned for film. Perfect escapism and a breezy, delightful summer read.

* * = starred reviews

Books & Authors Database

If you love reading fiction, then the Books & Authors database is the place for you. Whether you're looking for read-alike books or your book group wants critical reviews and author biographies to add to the discussion, Books & Authors has all this and more in through easy-to-navigate homepage. Try browsing through Community Picks and Expert Picks for popular selections, or Seasonal Suggestions, Best Sellers, or Award Winners for more ideas.

Get suggestions on your next read by searching author, title, or genre. For every title you find in Books & Authors, the site generates dozens of related book titles for you to read next. Find what might be your next favorite book based on what you already like. The database is also a great way to access a solid range of book reviews compiled in one place, all from reputable publications such as The New York Time Book Review, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly.

Access to this database is available at every branch of the AADL, as well as from outside the library with a valid AADL library card, or since this is a MeL Database, a Michigan driver's license number can be used instead.

For L-card holder access from an outside location, please sign in to your library account, visit our reference database page, and navigate to the desired resource. To access Books & Authors, go to the research page, and choose to Browse by Name A-Z: A-C, and click on Books & Authors. Michigan residents without a valid library card can gain access to this and the many other MeL databases by visiting MeL.org and entering your driver's license number.

The Kitchen Daughter and the SIMMER Blog

Back in June, we were contacted by Jael McHenry, author of The Kitchen Daughter. She liked our blog and agreed to come visit. On Thursday, August 18th, Ms. McHenry will be at the Downtown Library at 7 pm. She will talk about her debut novel and sign copies (Don't worry if you don't have yours yet. Copies will be available for purchase).

Jael is also an enthusiastic amateur cook. Her food blog SIMMER is very popular with foodies. Bring questions about food, cooking and writing for an evening of great discussion and fun.

AND she is bringing us FOOD! We were sure that the TSA won't let her bring them on the plane but her mom is going to step in and BAKE! So come and taste one of the fabulous recipes in The Kitchen Daughter. Are we in for a treat!

BTW, if you don't already know... since our blog was published in April, The Kitchen Daughter was named "Pick of the Week" in the Boston Globe's Word on the Street, and in June Oprah picked it as one of this summer's "Tantalizing Beach Reads."

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