Tag Tuesday

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic was

April 20: Colorful Book Covers

But that didn’t really grab me, so I decided to do some book tags that I’ve seen around here and there.

The Beauty and the Beast Tag

I found this one on @ErinTheBookNut’s blog, but it originally came from Du Livre. Since it’s my favorite fairy tale, did anyone think I could resist doing this?! (But yes, I know that the Disney films are far from the only version!)

“Oh what a guy, Gaston!” A villain you can’t help but love- I’m not usually the type to love a villain. I find them compelling characters sometimes, but at best it’s usually a character I “love to hate.” I’ve had a sense of sympathy with Nurse Rached in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ever since I started teaching though. I think it’s sort of unfair that people think of her as a villain. She’s working in a mental hospital with a vulnerable population that needs consistency and routine. So when Randall McMurphy comes in and starts upsetting things, she pushes back. I know that she’s supposed to represent the medical institutions that dehumanize the mentally ill, but I do think that some of her actions did have valid reasons behind them. Though I wouldn’t say I “love” her!

“Here’s where she meets Prince Charming” Your OTP- OK, so I find it very had to just pick one (and yes, I know the “O” in OTP stands for “one!”) but I suppose if I had to I’d probably pick Jamie and Claire from the Outlander series. A lot has happened to them over the course of 8 books, but I’ve never consistently stopped rooting for them as a couple (I have once or twice momentarily when I was mad at one or the other).

“I want so much more than this provincial life” A character destined for greater things. – I suppose any book that uses the “chosen one” trope could fit this one. I’m going with the Obernewtyn Chronicles though. When we first meet Elspeth Geordie, she’s an orphan in a post-apocalyptic world. She struggles to hide her special mental abilities from the totalitarian “Council.” But when she’s caught, she’s  sent to Obernewtyn, a mountain retreat where “Misfits” are sent. But there are secrets at Obernewtyn that no one knows about. Over the course of the series Elspeth learns what happened to the world to bring about the apocalypse, and that it may happen again. Her presence there isn’t an accident at all. In fact, she may be the only one who can stop it.

“Be our guest!” A book that made you hungry.- I think some of the descriptions of food in The Night Circus are very tempting!

Dish after dish is brought to the table, some easily identifiable as quail or rabbit or lamb, served on banana leaves or baked in apples or garnished with brandy-soaked cherries. Other courses are more enigmatic, concealed in sweet sauces or spiced soups, unidentifiable meats hidden in pastries and glazes. 

“Should a diner inquire as to the nature of a particular dish, question the origin of a bite or a seasoning, a flavor she cannot put her finger on (for even those with the most refined of palates can never identify each and every flavor), she will not be met with a satisfying answer. … 

The desserts are always astonishing. Confections deliriously executed in chocolate and butterscotch, berries bursting with creams and liqueurs. Cakes layered to impossible heights, pastries lighter than air. Figs that drip with honey, sugar blown into curls and flowers.

“Beauty and the Beast” Opposites attract. I’m sort of tempted to use my own book for this one, but I won’t! I’ll got with The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It’s about Don Tillman, a socially inept geneticist (it’s suggested that the character has Aspbergers but he’s not diagnosed). When he decides he wants to find a wife, he designs The Wife Project; a sixteen page, scientifically valid, survey to help weed out smokers, drinkers, and women who are tardy. Rosie Jarman is all of the above. She and Don end up on a date due to a mix up and she confides that she’s trying to find her biological father. Even though he has no romantic interest in her (according to the survey she’s all wrong for him!) Don designs The Father Project. You can probably see where this is going. I thought this book was really sweet, but I wasn’t a fan of the sequel. I haven’t read the third book yet, but I think this one works perfectly well as a stand alone.

“But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see” A character who is more than they appear- For some reason the first book I thought of for this one was The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Cecilia has been married to John-Paul for years. They have several children and a pretty happy family life. But when Cecilia finds a letter from her husband in the attic, with instructions that it’s supposed to be opened in the event of his death, Cecilia reads it, even though he’s very much alive. What she learns turns their lives upside down. It throws Cecilia into a moral dilemma that she never imagined, and makes he wonder who is the man she married.

“I was innocent and certain, now I’m wiser but unsure” A book that changed you in some way- I’ve always been aware that I’ve lead a privileged life, but sometimes I don’t think of certain things as a privilege because they’re things I’ve taken as a given. Growing up in the US in the late 20th and 21st century, I took for granted that I could read whatever I want. Yes, I was aware that this was not a freedom everyone in the world enjoyed, but I never really thought about what that meant, or what it looked like to fight against it, before I read Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafazi. I think being a reader has made me who I am. It’s taught me empathy. It’s taught me how little I understand the scheme of things. So if I didn’t have the freedom to read as I chose, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. This book made me consider all these ideas for the first time. Why would oppressive regimes go to so much trouble to ban books, and keep certain books out of certain reader’s hands? Because I’m not alone in this! Reading anything (regardless of whether or not it’s an “important” book) opens minds and hearts. Therefore it’s extremely threatening to an oppressor. Reading about the discussions that this Iranian book club had, and their responses to what they read made me realize on a conscious level that one of the most important things that literature (and art more generally) does is to show us that we’re not alone. That other people have emotional reactions to things, just like we do. Art can be a bridge between people of very different backgrounds and viewpoints. These connections can threaten the very foundations of a society. In that way, reading a novel, and sharing it with others, can be one of the most subversive things a person can do.

“Kill the Beast!” A book you picked up because of hype. – Are we talking about books that lived up to the hype, or books that didn’t? I suppose the most recent one was Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, which I heard was amazing, but I found it just OK. It actually inspired me to write a post of when you don’t love a hyped book. So stay tuned for that!

“I’ll never shake away the pain” A book or moment that always makes you cry- I didn’t want to repeat too much on this but when Jamie and Claire separate just before the battle of Culloden in Dragonfly in Amber, they think it will be forever. Jamie tells Claire that he’ll see her again someday. That always makes me weepy.

“I will find you,” he whispered in my ear. “I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you – then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest.”

His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me.

Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”

“How does a moment last forever” A book that you’ve loved since you were little.- So. Many. Books. Can’t…choose! I’m tempted to use my “standard” answer for this one and say “fairy tales” (I go into the reasons why a bit here, here, here and here) but I decided to mix things up a bit.  I think I was about nine years old when I picked up this book sort of randomly knowing nothing about it. That edition had the author’s name as “Julie Edwards.” As I read I fell in love with the sweet story of an orphan trying to create a home for herself. I flipped to the “about the author” page in the back of the book and saw that “Edwards” was the married name of Julie Andrews, star of Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music etc. Apparently in addition to being an Oscar winning actress with a gorgeous singing voice, she is also a writer. When I saw that, I felt like an old friend that I thought I knew surprised me in a magical way. Mandy is still worth reading for adults. It’s a little reminiscent of The Secret Garden in some ways.

90’s Movie Book Tag

Because I do love some 90’s movies! I found this one on Fiction No Chaser.

She’s All That

Name a book that is an odd pairing but they still fit perfectly– Inigo Montoya and Fezzik from The Princess Bride always struck me as sort of an odd friendship. I don’t know if they were intended to be a sort of comic echo of Lennie and George in Of Mice and Men, but they always remind me of that. To look at the giant Fezzik, he’d seem to have nothing in common with Inigo, a thin, vengeance obsessed, swordsman. But they have a solid friendship, and seem to offer each other comfort and support on a regular basis.

10 Things I Hate About You

A book/series that you have a love/hate relationship with– As much as it breaks my heart to say this, Harry Potter. I’ll always love Harry Potter, but JK Rowling’s recent behavior has cast a shadow on it for me. I don’t “hate” her, but I don’t approve of or agree with some of her recent statements and actions. I’m still trying to make peace between my love for the books and my disappointment in their author. I have no doubt that I will do it, as I said, the books will always have a special place in my heart, but it’s still a work in progress for me.

Clueless

A character that is totally clueless but you love them anyway– Is it totally cheating to pick Emma for this one?! (For those who don’t know, Clueless is based on Jane Austen’s Emma, which is why I say that it might be cheating)

Titanic

Name a book that made you cryA Little Life by Hana Yangihara totally did me in. I think it was a beautiful book but it was hard to read at times. I’m always hesitant to recommend it, because of that. I’m sort of glad that I read it at a moment in my life when I was able to appreciate it, rather than at a time when I might not have for various reasons.

American Pie

A book that makes you laugh– I’m assuming this means intentional laughter. There are a few (see here and here). There are also books that have made me laugh unintentionally, but that’s another story… One that I haven’t mentioned on the lists but would like to highlight is Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. It’s sort of what might happen if Lord of the Flies met America’s Next Top Model, and then they invited Pirates of the Caribbean over to hang out. It touches on some heavy subjects in a humorous way, without ever actually making light of those subjects. It’s a delicate balance and I majorly admire Libba Bray for pulling it off.

Can’t Hardly Wait

A book with a crazy party– Well, I once made a whole list about this, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say the literary masquerade party in The Starless Sea sounds like one of the few parties I’d really enjoy. Though I do think I’d have trouble deciding on a costume! I don’t know if I’d call it a “crazy” party (though it does lead to some craziness), but crazy parties don’t appeal to me that much anyway.

Cruel Intentions

Name a character that you can never fully trust– For this one, Tinkerbell from Peter Pan comes to mind. Yes, I know that “All you need is Faith, Trust and a little bit of Pixie Dust.” I know she seems like a sweet tiny fairy, full of just those things. That’s why it’s easy to forget that she’s jealous to the core and pretty destructive!

Drive Me Crazy

Name your favorite “boy next door” or “girl next door” couple Anne and Gilbert. How is this even a question? Really, there’s only one correct answer!

Scream

A book with a memorable villain– Mrs. Danvers from Rebecca is one of my favorite villains of all time. I suppose you wouldn’t expect a middle aged housekeeper to be threatening, which is what makes her great. She’s so manipulative too, She gets under the skin of the second Mrs. De Winter and then tries to push her to suicide. And then she gets really destructive! I talk about a few other favorite villains on this list.

The Craft

Name a book with witches– Just one? I’m actually working on a list of my favorite books about witches at the moment! But I suppose if I have to choose just one, I’ll say Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. because I don’t think it gets enough love (actually I can’t just say one, because it has a sequel called First Frost) It’s overshadowed a lot of the time by Practical Magic, and there are some similarities (both are about sisters who are witches, both use a magical realist style) but they’re not the same (especially now that you can take the Practical Magic books as a series that goes in a very different direction). I would say that Garden Spells is worth reading on its own merits.

Tag Tuesday: Bookish Rave and Rant

Since today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic didn’t speak to me (but Happy Mardi Gras! Laissez les bons temps rouler!) I decided to do this tag that I saw on @bookwyrmknits blog recently.

Rules:

  • Use this tag to dump your thoughts on books which you’d like to talk more about but usually don’t. Time to really rave about loved books, and rant about frustrating books.
  • And be sure to tag or ping back to the original post by Sumedha!

RAVE: a book you loved but don’t talk enough about

Usually when I love a book I won’t shut up about it, so it’s rare that this happens! I’m trying to think of an unknown/underrated book to talk about, and of course I’m drawing a blank. One recent one that I don’t think I’ve blogged much about was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. It’s about a woman who struggles with social skills and tends to say exactly what pops into her mind. As a result, she doesn’t have many friends, which is OK, because she avoids social situations anyway. (We do eventually learn why she’s this way, and it’s not what you’d think!) When Eleanor and a coworker, Raymond, help an elderly gentleman, Sammy, who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three form an unlikely friendship. It’s going to be made into a movie soon, and I’m really hoping that they don’t change certain story elements to make it more mainstream. For example, in this case, I liked that the friendships stayed platonic!

RANT: a book you didn’t like and haven’t spoken about

Well most recently would probably be That Autumn in Edinburgh by Ciji Ware. It’s part of Ware’s Four Seasons Quartet, which are stand alone sequels to her historical novels This one is a stand alone sequel to Island of the Swans, which I enjoyed, so I was disappointed to find this one such a bore. Basically it’s about two (unrelated) descendants of the star crossed couple in Island of the Swans, who meet and fall in love. They learn about their ancestor’s love story, and make some business decisions. Since Island of the Swans had sort of an open ending, it was nice to have a bit of closure for those characters, but that could have been accomplished in a short story/novella format. I didn’t need a whole novel about these other characters who I really didn’t care much about.

RAVE: an author whose works you love

Hmm… Actually I do like Ciji Ware even though I just ranted about one of her books. I’ve enjoyed most of them, so I feel kind of bad ranting about that one!

But an author I wish I could read more from is Sarah Addison Allen who writes what I’d call “small town magical realism.” I really enjoyed her Waverley Sisters novels, as well as most of her stand alone novels like The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Her most recent book, First Frost, came out in 2015, and there’s no word on a follow up, so she definitely leaves me wanting more!

RANT: an author whose works you just cannot like

Chuck Palahiuk. I had a friend in college who really liked him so I tried to read a few of his books. I think I tried Fight Club, Lullaby and one other (I think it might have been Choke or Invisible Monsters but I can’t remember). I found something about the narrative tone very off putting.

RAVE: a book you recently loved that you want everyone to read

How recent is “recent”? I’m currently finishing the third book in Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series. I enjoyed all three books in the series and I would recommend them, even to people who don’t usually like historical romance. All three are set against the backdrop of the Civil War, involving a (real) covert organization of spies. The reading order is 1) An Extraordinary Union 2) A Hope Divided 3) An Unconditional Freedom. But each book is more or less stand alone, with links to the others in terms of common characters. I would recommend this to non-romance readers because I think that Cole does an excellent job with the suspense (even though I know who won the Civil War, I was anxious for the characters and wanted their missions to go well) as well as imagining voices of characters who aren’t usually represented that well in fiction: the Loyal League is made up of free blacks of all backgrounds and stations, but there’s are also white allies. One book features a character who seems to be on the Autism Spectrum, and another features a biracial character who comes to the US from Cuba. None of these feel like they’re thrown in for diversity’s sake. All are really well developed characters, with backgrounds that are important to the story being told.

RANT: a book you did not finish recently and haven’t spoken about

I actually rare DNF books. It’s something I want to be able to do more, because I feel like I waste a lot of time with stuff I don’t enjoy, but I always worry that I’ll stop reading a book and then 2-3 pages after I stop, it’ll get good! I don’t remember the last book I didn’t finish.

RAVE: a book you would recommend to everyone

I’m always hesitant to answer this question because in truth there is no book I’d recommend to everyone. Every book I love has someone who dislikes it as much as I love it. Every book I dislike, has it’s lovers. It is a truth universally acknowledged that no single book is for every reader. But for the purposes of this tag, I decided to choose something.

Angela Carter is a writer I’ve long since admired for her novels and her short fiction. I love her collection The Bloody Chamber which is short fiction based on fairy tales. However, for this tag, I’m recommending Burning Your Boats: The Collected Short Stories, because it’s more complete. It includes all of the stories in The Bloody Chamber, as well as some great stories that weren’t included in that collection.

In terms of “everyone” I find it safest to include some variety; so I thought a collection would be a good choice. Different people can gravitate toward different stories.

RANT: a book which others like and you don’t understand why

I think I was in high school (or thereabouts) when The DaVinci Code came out and was really popular. I didn’t get a chance to read it until college, and I remember thinking “what’s the big deal about this?” Yes, it’s a fast read. But I didn’t find it that enlightening or entertaining. I suppose for some people it challenged some religious ideas that they’d accepted as a given, but that wasn’t the case for me. So I was left with a fairly “meh” read that had been totally overhyped beforehand.

Let me know if you decide to do this tag, I’d love to see your answers!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make Me Hungry

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 1: Books that Make Me Hungry (They could have food items on the cover, foods in the title, be about foodies or have food as a main plot point… they could be cookbooks or memoirs, etc.)

I actually did a list like this a few years ago. But I took up the challenge again and came up with ten more. I must confess, I’m not much of a foodie. Oh, I like food, don’t get me wrong! Give me something I like, and I’ll eat plenty of it!. But I can by a picky, finicky eater. I don’t like to cook. And there are lots of foods I don’t like. So making me hungry is an uphill battle for a book. But here are some that have accomplished the task!

1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl- This is sort of a no-brainer! I mean there’s a whole room made of candy! I used to fantasize about eating my way out.

2. Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson– There is a character in this who is homesick for England and it’s food. Actually, a few of the descriptions of British food, did make me a bit peckish (though a few also make me wonder what that character was thinking!). The description of some of the Brazilian foods and fruits also sounded good.

3. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor– This book make me crave fried plantains! Actually it made me want to try several of the African dishes.

4. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber– A lot of the food served at the Blackbird Cafe sounds wonderful, but if I had to pick just one thing I’d want to eat, it’s the pie.

5. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan– I pretty much craved really good Chinese food, the whole time I was reading this book.

6. The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert– Basically any food involving apples sounds appealing when reading this book. Apple pie, tart, sauce, and cider of course.

7. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee– This doesn’t stand out in my mind for food related reasons, but at the same times of the food descriptions definitely made my stomach growl.

8. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen- Confession: I have a terrible sweet tooth, that wasn’t helped by the sweets that the title character of this book also loves.

Top Ten Tuesday: Small Town Novels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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This week’s topic was:

August 11: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

But the thing is that there are a lot of books I’ve loved but never reviewed. My reviewing a book has more to do with time/inclination than love.

Since I wasn’t feeling this week’s topic, so I decided to go with one of my own. I’m definitely more of a big city girl IRL. But I do appreciate some small town fiction.

  1. 71pevpzotdl._ac_uy218_Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn– Camille is a reporter who returns to the small town of Wind Gap, Missouri  to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls. She finds a town that’s even more toxic than the one she left years earlier. At the same time she must grapple with some equally toxic family relationships.
  2. 81jwx0nliyl._ac_uy218_Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery– Avonlea is practically a character in these novels (most of them at least). Actually most of Montgomery’s work features small PEI based towns that play a large role in the story.
  3. a1eoxybsj5l._ac_uy218_We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson– The small town takes on a villainous role in this one. I think it rivals Wind Gap for toxicity! This town has it’s own set of witches (sort of), but the “normal” townspeople might be more dangerous than the witches!
  4. 91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen- A lot of Allen’s fiction is set in small towns, but this one (and the sequel First Frost) is set in Bascom, North Carolina. It’s a typical small Southern town in many ways, but some of the residents (namely the Waverly family) are anything but typical. That fact sends Sydney Waverly out of town right after high school graduation. But it might also be what brings her back.
  5. 91j44fyb1ml._ac_uy218_Salem’s Lot by Stephen King- I’m actually not a big fan of  this novel, but one thing that King does in it really successfully (IMO) is create a portrait of mundane, everyday evil. We see acts of abuse and bullying that make up the fabric of daily life in ‘Salem’s Lot. Ultimately I think that’s more chilling than the vampires that eventually make an appearance.
  6. 81ap62fhl._ac_uy218_Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris– I know that the Sookie Stackhouse novels, the Aurora Teagarden series and the Midnight, Texas series are also set in small towns (and have small screen adaptations) but those never really resonated with me. I prefer this series set in Shakespeare, Arkansas. I included this book because it’s the first, but any of the others also apply.
  7. 41fsa9p0jul._ac_uy218_Peyton Place by Grace Metalious– This novel is about how three women come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings in a very conservative, small, gossipy New England town. This book was a major bestseller when it came out in the 50’s (it was quite scandalous because it dealt with subjects like incest, abortion, adultery, and murder; as well as larger issues like hypocrisy, social inequality, and economic privilege) . It spawned a sequel, and both books got film adaptations. It also inspired a successful TV series. I read it years ago, and don’t remember much in terms of plot, but I do remember that secret filled town.
  8. 713lu0aeegl._ac_uy218_Empire Falls by Richard Russo– The titular town in this novel is a working class town sees through the eyes of Miles Robey. Miles owns the Empire Grill (where everyone in town seems to eat) and is father to a teenager.
  9. 81d3bhbgngl._ac_uy218_Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng- Shaker Heights prides itself on being an open minded small town.  Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl arrive and make a home for themselves there. But when a controversial custody case divides opinions in town, Mia finds herself on the opposite side from her employers, the Richardson family. The split could have dangerous consequences.
  10. 81ay1lxk9l._ac_uy218_To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee– I think that Maycomb, Alabama is one of the of first places I think of when I think of fictional small towns. Like many, it’s a close knit community where there’s a lot of gossip and people know each other’s business. It’s harmless, until it’s not. We see another side of this town from a different perspective in Go Set a Watchman.

Top Ten Tuesday: Springtime Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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May 5: Things I’d Have at My Bookish Party (choose 10 things: items, accessories, foods, people (real or fictional), decorations, activities, etc.)

This week’s topic didn’t grab me, so I went in my own direction again. It’s finally starting to feel like spring in my neck of the woods, and even though I think of myself as a “winter person,” behind my mask and beneath my gloves I’m starting to celebrate.  So I’m sharing ten books that feel like spring to me:

51p9iawrnol._ac_uy218_1.The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- I think that this book is perfect for spring, because we follow this orphan who comes to England from India. She’s bereaved and isolated, but she finds the secret garden. As she brings it back to life, her own health and spirits are also rejuvenated.  It’s about renewal and rebirth.

 

 

41etjy5BOOL._AC_US218_2. Spring by Ali Smith– This is part of Smith’s seasonal quartet. Each book is stand alone, but has subtle links to the others.  This one focuses on characters that seem very separate: Richard is an elderly director who is grieving after the loss of his friend and Brit works at a migrant detention center until she meets Florence, a young girl travelling to what she hopes will be a better life. It examines current events in Britain, which in this case probably aren’t too different from the US, but  it also weaves together the characters and ideas to create a larger picture. The characters’ relationships and their values are highlighted and questioned against these larger issues.

812ey934m8l._ac_uy218_3. A Room With A View by EM Forester– Miss Lucy Honeychurch, A Proper English Young Lady, is destined for a Respectable Marriage, until she takes a vacation in Tuscany. She meets George Emerson, who is travelling with his father, and “In the company of this common man the world was beautiful and direct. For the first time she felt the influence of Spring.” When she returns to Italy respectability tries to take over her life once again, but Lucy has already become open to a different kind of life.

913a0g0ghvl._ac_uy218_ml3_-14. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim– Yes, I know it’s May, but this book still applies. It’s about four Englishwomen with little in common other than the fact that they need a break from their daily lives. They decide to rent a castle in Italy for the month of April. The new location restores them and brings them new perspective in different ways.  When the men in their lives join them (sometimes by invitation, sometimes not) the transformation can’t help but overcome them as well.

 

71-ozsgkwsl._ac_uy218_5. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf-This book is an imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog, Flush. From a dog’s eye view, we get a chance to see Elizabeth as a young invalid who spends most of her time indoors. She manages to meet Robert Browning (initially a fan of her work) and they fall in love. He whisks her (and Flush, naturally) off to Italy (I’ve never been to Italy but I get the sense that it’s the place to be in springtime!). We see Elizabeth transform through Flush’s perspective, and we see Flush transform as well: he goes a lapdog to a dog about town.

51tsapquwul-_ac_us218_6. Madensky Square by Eva Ibbotson– On the first day of spring in  1911, Susanna Weber, who runs a dress salon in the titular square in Vienna, starts to keep a diary. In it she records the lives of and stories of herself and her neighbors. Other than being literally set in spring, this book feels springy to me because it’s about life: good, bad, and occasionally ugly.

 

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_7.Anne of Avonlea by LM Montogmery- Read just about any LM Montgomery book and you’re almost sure to find a beautifully written description of spring. I suppose that I chose this particular book because it’s about growth- Anne’s growth and that of her friends. They’re in the spring of their lives here. It reminds us That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”

 

81wnvagspxl._ac_uy218_ml3_8.Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed–  When Cheryl Strayed started to hike the Pacific Crest Trail she had lost her mother and her family dissolved,  her own actions had brought about the end of her marriage to a man she still loved, and she was lost in a mire of substance abuse. She was in an emotional winter. While she treks through miles of snowpack and hot desert, she grows and changes. She emerges from her journey renewed and reborn, in a personal spring.

 

91mfkvjzw-l._ac_uy218_9. Emma by Jane Austen- For some reason I always associate this book with picnics. I can recall one important picnic scene, but in my head it seems like Emma and friends are always going on a picnic. But I also think of Emma as a springtime character. She embarks on several (disastrous but well-intentioned) attempts at matchmaking only to realize how in the dark she really is. Finally she comes through a bit wiser and the world opens up around her. Her mind opens up. She’s in a metaphorical spring.

 

91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_ml3_10.Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen– The Waverly family is endowed with usual “gifts” that make them outsiders in their small time home of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has special powers. Claire is a caterer who brings a magical touch to her dishes with these plants, but her sister, Sydney fled town as soon as she was old enough to go. When Sydney returns, daughter in tow Claire’s quiet life it turned upside down. Sydney and her daughter tear down the boundaries that Claire had put up around her heart, leaving her wide open.

Top Ten Tuesday: Feel Good Reads

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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March 24: Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

I think we’re all at least a little stressed, anxious and need of feel good reads right now.

419ewleob1l-_ac_us218_1. Anything Jane Austen: Austen is an author whose complexity is often overlooked for a number of reasons: she’s a woman, she employs the marriage plot in her works and she’s funny. But those are also the reasons that her work makes for feel good reading. It’s hard to go wrong here. Her inclusion on this list probably won’t help her get the recognition that she deserves as an author of complexity and depth. But it will help you feel a bit better.

 

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_2. The Anne series by LM Montgomery– Bad things happen in these books. People get sick and die. But the heroine sees the world with optimism even through the bad times, and when we read about it through her eyes, we can’t help but see it the same way.

 

 

91eu73x8il._ac_uy218_ml3_3. Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty -20 years ago tragedy struck Abi’s family and she got a  book called The Guidebook in the mail. She always linked the two events in her mind, so when she gets invited to a retreat by the writers of The Guidebook, she goes, half expecting answers. What she finds is not what she expects but it is something that will change her life nevertheless. This book is about love, loss, hope, believing in the impossible, the self help industry, and more. It’ll make you laugh and cry, possibly at the same time.

81gw6tyoeul._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman–  Nina Hill is a compelling character because she feels like someone you might really know. She has a full life that she likes, but when it’s turned upside down, she realizes how much more the world has to offer.  She’s deeply flawed and those flaws aren’t magically gone by the end of the book, but we know that Nina can live with them and thrive.

 

71hpnqntwul._ac_uy218_ml3_5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – This is a coming of age story about an introvert who ventures outside her comfort zone for the first time in many ways. It’s also a celebration of loving a fictional story to the point of geekery.

 

 

 

913a0g0ghvl._ac_uy218_ml3_-16. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– This book is about four strangers who are in a rut in their own ways. They all buy into a month long getaway at an Italian castle, and that getaway changes them all in different ways. This book is gentle, but lovely. As the characters start to feel better you start to feel it as well.

 

 

91qjazuvljl._ac_uy218_ml3_7. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman– Eleanor Oliphant has issues. She tends to say exactly what’s on her mind no matter what that might be. She avoids social interactions whenever possible and her life is kept to a careful timetable. When she meets Raymond, an IT guy from her office, she’s initially disgusted: he’s unhygienic. He’s a smoker. But when they save the life of another lonely fellow on the street, Eleanor finds herself drawn into a friendship with two other people. I made some assumptions about Eleanor when I first started reading that turned out to be wrong, when I read her story and got to know her. Similarly, Eleanor’s assumptions turn out to be wrong much of the time.

51xnngtdkl._ac_uy218_ml3_8. Love, Rosie by Cecilia Ahern– Rosie and Alex are best friends who are meant to be together. But just as it seems that things are happening right, they go very wrong. The book is a series of letters, emails, and notes over the course of years and Rosie and Alex come together and apart and together time and time again. This books is frustrating at times, but it’s a reminder that things endure beyond the frustration.

 

91paeh4pugl._ac_uy218_ml3_9. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen – The Waverly’s have always had mysterious gifts that make them outsiders in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Claire has embraced those gifts as a caterer, preparing her dishes with what people need. But her sister Sydney left town as soon as she could. When she returns, with her daughter, she confronts everything that she left behind. This book is brimming with bits of magic. It never overtakes the narrative, but it grows around the edges and creeps inward.

 

 

What are your favorite feel good (or feel better) books?

Top Ten Tuesday: Autumn Books

For That Artsy Reader Girls Top Ten Tuesday

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November 5: Books That Give Off Autumn Vibes (Autumn scenes/colors on the cover, autumn atmosphere, etc.)

These are just books that give me a strong sense of the season:

41hn3x56n9l-_ac_us218_1. Autumn by Ali Smith– This is the first in Smith’s quartet of interconnected, stand alone cyclical novels each focused on a different season. The plot, such as it is, deals with a platonic friendship between a thirty two year old woman and a man seventy years her senior. But really it reads more like a post-Brexit prose poem.

“November again. It’s more winter than autumn. That’s not mist. It’s fog. The sycamore seeds hit the glass in the wind like – no, not like anything else, like sycamore seeds hitting window glass. There’ve been a couple of windy nights. The leaves are stuck to the ground with the wet. The ones on the paving are yellow and rotting, wanwood, leafmeal. One is so stuck that when it eventually peels away, its leafshape left behind, shadow of a leaf, will last on the pavement till next spring. The furniture in the garden is rusting. They’ve forgotten to put it away for the winter. The trees are revealing their structures. There’s the catch of fire in the air. All the souls are out marauding. But there are roses, there are still roses. In the damp and the cold, on a bush that looks done, there’s a wide-open rose, still. Look at the colour of it.”
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2. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen– This book deals with the same characters that we first met in Addison’s debut novel, Garden Spells, but First Frost can definitely be read as a stand alone. The Waverly sisters are a slightly magical pair, living in Bascomb, North Carolina. For the Waverley family, Autumn is a season of transformation, change and magic. Sometimes in a very literal sense!

“On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.”

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_3. Night Film by Marisha Pessl– Ashley Cordova, daughter of a famous director of scary movies, commits suicide one rainy, October night. Investigative journalist, Scott McGrath has suspicions about the death and his investigation takes him into the nightmare world of Stanislas Cordova. Not only is this book set during a rainy, foggy, autumn, it consists of textbook excerpts, newspaper articles and more that give the text a similarity to a pile of multicolored leaves.

My Cordova tale began for the second time on a rainy October night, when I was just another man running in circles, going nowhere as fast as I could…I was too strung out to sleep, hounded by an inertia I couldn’t explain, except for the vague understanding that the best part of my life was behind me, and the sense of possibility that I’d once had so innately as a young man was now gone. It was cold and I was soaked. The gravel track was  rutted with puddles, the black waters of the Reservoir cloaked in mist. It clogged the reeds along the bank and erased the outskirts of the park as if it were nothing but paper, the edges torn away.

818ezr7u2al._ac_uy218_ml3_4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern– In terms of plot, this novel deals with a competition between two magicians that will result in a high stakes fight to the death for their children. However, the setting, Le Cirque des Reves, a circus open only at night, that arrives without warning, and defies the conventional laws of physics, is the real star here. It puts the reader in minds of crisp autumn nights, hot apple cider, and hints of magic everywhere.

“The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold.”

91ucd7rhqhl._ac_uy218_ml3_5. The Cider House Rules by John Irving- This novel is set in Maine in the first part of the twentieth century. It tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch, obstetrician, ether addict, abortionist, orphanage director; and his favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. The rural new England setting brings to mind picturesque autumns full of colorful trees and crisp blue skies fading into golden sunsets.

 When he would almost despair, when the ether was too overpowering, when his own age seemed like the last obstacle and the vulnerability of his illegal enterprise was as apparent to him as the silhouettes of the fir trees against the sharp night skies of autumn, Wilbur Larch would save himself with this one thought: I love Homer Wells, and I have saved him from the war.”

913bxaz8drl._ac_uy218_ml3_6. The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick– This is another book set in New England. Patience Sparrow is the town healer (and some say witch) whose herbs and tinctures are given to many. But her remedies are implicated in a tragedy, the town is consumed by fear, and it’s witch hunting history may resurrect itself. The fear that infects the town causes a sort of premature autumn: leaves and plants, wither and die, fishermen return empty handed.

“The Sparrow Sisters’ roses still bloomed on New Year’s Day, their scent rich and warm even when snow weighted their petals closed. When customers came down the rutted road to the small eighteenth-century barn where the sisters worked, they marveled at the jasmine that twined through the split-rail fence, the perfume so intense they could feel it in their mouths. As they paid for their purchases, they wondered (vaguely, it must be said, for the people of Granite Point knew not to think too hard about the Sisters) how it was that clematis and honeysuckle climbed the barn in November and the morning glories bloomed all day. The fruit trees were so fecund that the peaches hung on the low branches, surrounded by more blossoms, apples and pears ripened in June and stayed sweet and fresh into December. Their Italian fig trees were heavy with purple teardrop fruit only weeks after they were planted. If you wanted a tomato so ripe the juice seemed to move beneath the skin, you needed only to pick up a punnet at the Nursery.”

517vbd5d37l-_ac_us218_7. Still Life by Louise Penny– This is the first in Penny’s series about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec. It’s a popular series, but even though I enjoyed this book, I haven’t read any of the others yet. It’s set in Three Pines, a small hamlet near the US Border, where there’s been a suspicious death on Canadian Thanksgiving (in early October). Three Pines seems like a perfect, picturesque Autumn town, where anyone would love to life (if not for the gruesome death…)

Three Pines wasn’t on any tourist map, being too far off any main or even secondary road. Like Narnia, it was generally found unexpectedly and with a degree of surprise that such an elderly village should have been hiding in this valley all along. Anyone fortunate enough to find it once usually found their way back. And Thanksgiving, in early October, was the perfect time. The weather was usually crisp and clear, the summer scents of old garden roses and phlox were replaced by musky autumn leaves, woodsmoke and roast turkey.
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8. Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour– In some ways this book is a victim of the YA fantasy craze of the early 2000s. But the time this came out in 2014, a lot of elements had become cliche. But the story, set in upstate NY and inspired by the Scottish ballad, Tam Lin, has a vivid Fall setting. It’s set on a college campus (to me campus novels always have a whiff of Autumn) and most of the action takes place in October, culminating on Halloween.

He held out a hand.
Beware, the rustling leaves seemed to whisper.
Finn clasped Jack’s hand as her own self whispered, Be brave.

81nnru9c61l._ac_uy218_ml3_9. The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert– To be fair I just started this one, but it seems like it’s very much a seasonal read. It’s set on a family run orchard, where the daughter, who has some major issues, is trying to start a cider business. Meanwhile, a single father comes to work on the orchard for the season, with his son, from whom he’s keeping some big secrets.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 20: Favorite Tropes (a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device) (submitted by Andrea @ Books for Muse)

1. Mysterious school

2. Slow burn romance

3. Small towns

4. Missing/Absent parents

5. Family secrets

6. Gothic

7. Neo-Victorian

8. Time Travel / Time Slips

9. Dual Timelines

10. Fairy Tale retellings

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Worlds Where You’d Like to Live (Or Visit)

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 29: Bookish Worlds I’d Want to/Never Want to Live In

I decided to go with worlds I’d actually want to live in, since places, where I wouldn’t want to live, seems a bit too easy. Pretty much any dystopia qualifies (and a few are uncomfortably similar to the world I actually live in…) These all have drawbacks of course, but I could be happy in most of these places. Granted, I’d rather visit most of them, than live there.

51-eyayn0ol-_ac_us218_1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern-

“They are enthusiasts, devotees. Addicts. Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent. They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars… When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they go their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before.”

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_2. Peter Pan by JM Barrie

“I don’t know if you have ever seem a map of a person’s mind. Doctors sometimes draw maps of other parts of you, and your own map can become intensely interesting, but catch them trying to draw a map of a child’s mind, which is not only confused, but keeps going round all the time. There are zigzag lines on it, just like your temperature on a card, and these are probably roads in the island; for the Neverland is always more or less and island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.”

41fxwtlwool-_ac_us218_3. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum– Note that I said Baum’s Oz, not Gregory Maguire’s!

“The cyclone had set the house down gently, very gently – for a cyclone—in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty. There were lovely patches of green sward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies.”

4. Prince Edward Island in most of LM Montgomery’s work.

“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

Anne of Green Gables

“It was a lovely afternoon – such an afternoon as only September can produce when summer has stolen back for one more day of dream and glamour.”

-Emily Climbs

“But now she loved winter. Winter was beautiful “up back” – almost intolerably beautiful. Days of clear brilliance. Evenings that were like cups of glamour – the purest vintage of winter’s wine. Nights with their fire of stars. Cold, exquisite winter sunrises. Lovely ferns of ice all over the windows of the Blue Castle. Moonlight on birches in a silver thaw. Ragged shadows on windy evenings – torn, twisted, fantastic shadows. Great silences, austere and searching. Jewelled, barbaric hills. The sun suddenly breaking through grey clouds over long, white Mistawis. Ice-grey twilights, broken by snow-squalls, when their cosy living-room, with its goblins of firelight and inscrutable cats, seemed cosier than ever. Every hour brought a new revalation and wonder.”

The Blue Castle

51iswycraxl-_ac_us218_5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

“She stood for a moment looking out at a slowly moving view of the hills, watching heather slide past underneath the door, feeling the wind blow her wispy hair, and listening to the rumble and grind of the big black stones as the castle moved.”

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_6. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling -Note I’d want to visit her wizarding world minus the Death Eaters

She pulled the door wide. The Entrance Hall was so big you could have fitted the whole of the Dursleys’ house in it. The stone walls were lit with flaming torches like the ones at Gringotts, the ceiling was too high to make out, and a magnificent marble staircase facing them led to the upper floors.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

7. Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen- Bascomb NC

“Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets. The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws. Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.”

Garden Spells

“On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.”

First Frost

61kl8q74sml-_ac_us218_8. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff– Templeton NY

“Then, when we had done so, we put our hands upon the freezing cold monster, our monster. And this is what we felt: vertigo, an icicle through our strong hearts, our long-lost childhoods. Sunshine in a field and crickets and the sweet tealeaf stink of a new ball mitt and a rock glinting with mica and a chaw of bubblegum wrapping in sweet sweet tendrils down our throats and the warm breeze up our shorts and the low vibrato of lake loons and the sun and the sun and the warm sun and this is what we felt; the sun.”

41ay0z5uell-_ac_us218_9. There’s No Place Like Here by Cecilia Ahearn

“I should have been afraid, walking through a mountainside in the dark by myself. Instead, I felt safe, surrounded by the songs of birds, engulfed by the scents of sweet moss and pine, and cocooned in a mist that contained a little bit of magic.”

 

41mbxlnvcll-_ac_us218_10. Griffin and Sabine trilogy by Nick Bantcock

“I could see sunlight making exquisite patterns on the water’s surface above me. Everything seemed fascinating and very slow. All around me lionfish darted like golden suns and moons in an alchemists’s dream. I looked down to where a vast labyrinth of black seaweed awaited me.” – Sabine’s Notebook

Top Ten Tuesday: Food in Books

For the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 17: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

I’m not really a foodie. I mean, I like food, don’t get me wrong! I like to eat. But I hate to cook. My dislike of cooking means that unless I’m ordering in or eating out, I tend to opt for simple things. Think spaghetti, scrambled eggs, and sandwiches. But I can get my fix of exotic foods on the page!

51z3mpqa7ml-_ac_us218_1. Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harrris- Chocolat seems to be the popular Harris choice for lists about food books. But I actually prefer this one. Framboise Darigan is an old lady who recalls the her childhood in a small, French town, which coincided with the later days of the Occupation during WWII. Framboise and her siblings traded with the Germans on the black market. They meet Tomas, a charming young Nazi who gives them gifts. But this friendship leads to a tragic, violent series of events that still torments Framboise years later. This sounds heavy and it is, but there’s some yummy food there too. Framboise and her mother are gifted cooks. In her narration, Framboise often speaks in terms of food.

“This is something different again. A feeling of peace. The feeling you get when a recipe turns out perfectly right, a perfectly risen souffle, a flawless sauce hollandaise. It’s a feeling which tells me that any woman can be beautiful in the eyes of a man who loves her.”

51tnp5yzcsl-_ac_us218_2. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan- Pearl Louie Brandt is the American born daughter of a Chinese mother. She and her mother have never been very close, but when she goes home for a wedding, she gets the truth of her mother’s past. Here the narrative shifts to Japanese occupied China in the years around WWII. Winnie Louie (Pearl’s mother) was an orphan who lived with her uncle and his family. A marriage was arranged for her when she grew up. This marriage turns out to be a disaster. Her husband is abusive.  She likens her situation to a Chinese fable about the wife of a man who was horrible to her no matter how much she did for him. This man still became known as the “kitchen god”. This is also a heavy topic, but with some very yummy sounding descriptions of Chinese fare.

“I take a few quick sips. “This is really good.” And I mean it. I have never tasted tea like this. It is smooth, pungent, and instantly addicting.

“This is from Grand Auntie,” my mother explains. “She told me ‘If I buy the cheap tea, then I am saying that my whole life has not been worth something better.’ A few years ago she bought it for herself. One hundred dollars a pound.”

“You’re kidding.” I take another sip. It tastes even better.”

51f55a0yvl-_ac_us218_3. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen- Claire Waverly is a caterer who makes her food with mystical plants: nasturtiums are for keeping secrets, pansies are for thoughtful children etc. Her cousin, Evanelle, also has some strange gifts. The two of them are the last of the Waverlys. Well, except for Claire’s sister, Sydney, who ran away from their small town home of Bascom, North Carolina, as soon as she could. But when Sydney comes back home, she brings with her a young daughter and a dark history. She and Claire struggle to reconnect and create a family and a home. A few weeks ago, I wrote about First Frost, which is a stand alone sequel to this book.

“Business was doing well, because all the locals knew that dishes made from the flowers that grew around the apple tree in the Waverley garden could affect the eater in curious ways. The biscuits with lilac jelly, the lavender tea cookies, and the tea cakes made with nasturtium mayonnaise the Ladies Aid ordered for their meetings once a month gave them the ability to keep secrets. The fried dandelion buds over marigold-petal rice, stuffed pumpkin blossoms, and rose-hip soup ensured that your company would notice only the beauty of your home and never the flaws. Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thoughtful. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.

51t-vfynk1l-_ac_us218_4. The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell- Rachel has spent her whole life keeping the fact that she can make wishes come true a secret. The consequences of granting wishes have a history of being disastrous. So when she accidentally grants a wish for the first time in years, she decides its time to hit the road. Her car runs out of gas in Nowhere, North Carolina. There she meets Catch, an old woman who can bind secrets by baking them into pies. She also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a handsome fellow who makes Rachel believe that a happily ever after might be possible for her. But when wishes start to pile up all over town, Rachel must finally learn to accept who she is, and how to control her ability. This was a nice “comfort read” at the end of a long day. And it made me want pie. A lot.

“She relaxed her grip on the plate and inhaled the sweet scent of the peach pie. She would have eaten it even if it hadn’t smelled like heaven on a plate, but after the first bite, she was grateful Catch had ignored her initial refusal.”

51cve8ijpbl-_ac_us218_5. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg- Evelyn Couch is 48 years old and having a mid-life crisis. Ninny Threadgoode is 86 and still living with a lifetime of happy memories. When they meet in the visitors room of an Alabama nursing home, Cleo begins to tell Evelyn about the town she grew up in, during the great depression. Much of the life in town centered around the Whistle Stop Cafe which was run by Idgie Threadgoode, a rebellious tomboy, and her partner, Ruth. Idgie, Ruth and the Whistle Stop Cafe survive just about everything; from the depression, to the KKK, to murder. And they do it amidst the smell of good food!

“The Whistle Stop Cafe opened up last week, right next door to me at the post office, and owners Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison said business has been good ever since. Idgie says that for people who know her not to worry about getting poisoned, she is not cooking.”

41nzls4cxol-_ac_us218_6. Sunshine by Robin McKinley-Rae “Sunshine” Seddon works at her stepfather’s bakery (where her cinnamon rolls are legendary!). One night she goes out to the lake in search of some peace and quiet. She ends up getting kidnapped by vampires. She’s held in the same room as Constantine, another vampire, who is also in chains. He’s been captured by his enemy who wants him to die slowly of daylight and starvation. But Sunshine has some secret powers (aside from baking, that is) and she frees them both. But they soon find themselves on the run from Constantine’s enemies.  I’m sort of conflicted about putting this book on my list, since I ultimately disliked it for the same reason that it belongs on here: a lot too much time was spent on describing how the main character makes the best cinnamon rolls ever. But I’m putting it on the list because, well, the cinnamon rolls did sound pretty good!

“Mr. Responsible Media was looking rebellious, but this was my country. I was the Cinnamon Roll Queen and most of those assembled were my devoted subjects.”

51cpofw4mll-_ac_us218_7. Mistress of the Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni- Tilo is an old woman who sells spices in Oakland California. She suggests spices to flavor different dishes, but secretly these spices treat the spiritual problems of her customers. Because Tilo isn’t really an old woman. She’s really the immortal “Mistress of the Spices” trained in the art of spices and given special powers. But these powers come with rules.  When she breaks those rules she doesn’t lose her magical abilities, but she does lose power regarding the outcomes when she uses her magic. Ultimately she has to chose between being a powerful immortal, or an ordinary woman. This book makes me hungry for Indian food.

“Each spice has a special day to it. For turmeric it is Sunday, when light drips fat and butter-colored into the bins to be soaked up glowing, when you pray to the nine planets for love and luck.”

51h2-a-nbl-_ac_us218_8. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder- Yelena faces execution for murder (the fact that he deserved it doesn’t seem to matter much….) She is offered a way out: become the food taster for the commander of Ixia. She’s kept from escaping by being poisoned. Only the commander’s head of security, Valek, has the antidote, which most be administered on a daily basis. But Yelena soon discovers that she has a role to play in Ixia’s future. She gets caught up in castle politics, but her actions make some people impatient with waiting for poison to finish her off. It seems strange to have a book about someone tasting a food for poison make a reader hungry, but almost every chapter has a description of a yummy meal- the fact that it may or may not be poisoned just makes it a bit more interesting!

“When you warned me that you would test me from time to time, I thought you meant spiking my food. But it seems there is more than one way to poison a person’s heart, and it doesn’t even require a meal.”

51-eyayn0ol-_ac_us218_9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern- Behind the scenes of Le Cirque des Reves there’s a duel taking place between two magicians. Celia and Marco have been trained from childhood to fight to the death. However, the best laid plans fall apart when Celia and Marco fall in love. They’re still bound to their duel, unless they can find a way out. Nothing about the plot deals with food really, but the writing is very sensory. There are a lot of food related metaphors that almost let you taste what they’re talking about.

“The circus looks abandoned and empty. But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold.”

51qlgj6zojl-_ac_us218_10. Harry Potter series by JK Rowling- The Harry Potter universe should really come with its own menu. The books need no introduction. But whether it’s Mrs. Weasley’s feasts, the food trolley on the Hogwarts express, or the contents of Honeyduke’s sweetshop, there’s something mouthwatering, and something cringeworthy (Jelly Slugs? Blood flavored lollipops?) for everyone. I once had something claiming to be Butterbeer. It actually tasted suspiciously like ginger ale.

“He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, fries, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup, and, for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.’’  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.