Cover Snapshot of Read Books

Sara's bookshelf: read

Crazy Little Thing
A Kiss at Midnight
The Disenchanted Widow
Hollywood Wives - The New Generation
There Goes the Bride
Table for Five
Do Not Disturb
The Husband's Secret
The Ugly Duchess
Help for the Haunted
The Power Trip
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Summer At Willow Lake
Every Crooked Nanny
The Mystery Woman
The Woodcutter
How to Be an American Housewife

Sara's favorite books »

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Almost Good Recipe; The Cookbook Collector

I’ve been anxiously waiting for The Cookbook Collector to become available in paperback, and wow what interesting timing (the novel covers the September 11, 2001 time period and I read it on the 10th anniversary of September 11). Straightaway I need to admit disappointment in how long it took for the book to mention the cookbook collection. For the first 150 pages, I had no idea when or how the cookbook collection would appear. The cookbook portion of this story was the most flavorful and interesting portion of this book—I wish the cook book story had been larger; had been THE only story.

 Emily is the eldest sister, the one who has her life together, the IPO CEO; large in charge and busier than ever. Jonathan is her larger than life boyfriend, a determined successful CEO himself. For these two workaholics, togetherness is very rare. The time period in this book is interesting as it occurs in the nineties through 2000s, so IPOs were as common as they have ever been or will ever be. Emily is driven and smart but her personality doesn’t get much deeper than that while Jonathan is attractive and demanding, almost devious. These two were the least interesting characters in the book, although we all know what happened to IPOs in 2001…

 Jess is young, vibrant and whimsical as she flits through her life. She devotes herself to causes and organizations, but has no real sense of who she is or what she wants, and already she is so much more interesting than her sister Emily. George is Jess’s forty-something bookstore employer, he tries to convince himself that he is simply charmed by Jess’s youthful exuberance. Knowing the age difference and societal difference, the independently wealthy George keeps his distance from Jess until the day that he is offered the Cookbook collection. The antique cookbook collection is the collection of his dreams despite there being no catalog or provenance. That day he asks Jess to work exclusively and thoroughly on the documentation of the collection. Through the intimacy of cataloging the collection, Jess and George start an affair and both have difficulty in defining or understanding their relationship as the affair continues. Their story is compelling and I really wanted this novel to be solely their story, the cookbook story. I would have given 4 stars to a smaller book (250 to 300 pages) with just the Cookbook Collector portion--perhaps with more detail on the reasoning behind why the collection is now available for sale...

The Cookbook Collector was written by Allegra Goodman, and is 394 trade paperback pages.

Friday, September 9, 2011

North to Greatness with South of Superior

It is exceptionally rare that I recommend a hardback book to my friends and family, very rare indeed, as South of Superior will be the only hardcover that I recommend this year.  I implore literary critics everywhere to recognize the amazing new voice of Ellen Airgood. South of Superior is far superior to the Pulitzer Prize winning books of Olive Kitteridge and A Visit from the Goon Squad (both attained negative reviews from me).

 Madeline Stone is like many of us, a bit lost in her life, a bit unsure of what she should do with her future. A letter from her estranged grandfather’s girlfriend, with a request for help, gives Madeline the opportunity to make a bold move. Madeline packs her car and heads to the upper peninsula of Michigan to assist in the caretaking of an elderly woman. Challenges abound as Madeline and the townspeople face financial issues, elderly health issues, and the complexities of a depressed town. Madeline slowly starts to discover her talents and her needs as she dedicates herself and her future to the small town way of life.

 Gladys is a strong-willed senior citizen who is getting too old to care for her sickly sister Arbutus. More than anything, Gladys does not want her sister to be put into a nursing home and that is the catalyst that forces Gladys to write to Madeline. Gladys, like many in tough times, has money issues, and has started selling off her antique furniture in order to pay for her sister’s medical bills. Arbutus has one obtuse son who seems to want only whatever inheritance she has, offering nothing in the way of emotional or financial support.

This novel encompasses serious topics like economic depression, abandonment, and poverty along with a bit of hope and tenderness. What I enjoyed most about the novel (aside from the Michigan setting) was the glimpses into the lives of the townspeople. The reader sees how even the most stubborn old lady has passion for her town, her people. I loved it when the cantankerous eighty-something Gladys took a stand against the new grocers when they cancelled the store “credit” line for the poorer townspeople. The motto here is that the townspeople take care of their own, even when they may be imperfect, impoverished and altogether human. If you want a tender and warm “slice of life” northern town story, pick up this book. This is a worthy novel, one that covers small town life without making itself pretentious and obnoxiously literary.

 South of Superior is currently in hardback only, is 370 pages and was written by Ellen Airgood . This book would make a great book club choice.