The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Dear Fellow Reader,

While I write to you today, there is a rainstorm outside. Thunder and lightning – the whole Midwest rainstorm show. I am delighted because it has been dry where I live and we need the rain. There is one member of the family who doesn’t agree that we EVER need thunder and lightning. Sadie, the dog who is afraid (of everything) is under the desk at my feet hiding from the day. So while she tries to burrow through the floor, I will tell you about a new book I read.

Each morning, I receive an email from BookBub with the eBook deals of the day. (You can subscribe at www.bookbub.com)  I really try not to buy any books but sometimes there is one that captures my eye and for $1.99, I’ll buy it. That is what happened with this book. It was on the sale list and it sounded intriguing. And of course, I was supposed to be reading my book club book. Sometimes, that rebel in me that just can’t settle in to read what I am supposed to read. (Just kidding, there is no rebel in me.)

The School of Essential Ingredients was a pleasure to find. It is a story about a group of 8 people who meet in a cooking class at Lillian’s restaurant. The class is held once a month on Monday nights. The stories about the 8 students and Lillian are woven through the classes. We learn first about Lillian and her involvement with food and how she learned how to use food to get her mother’s attention and the woman who helped her learn about food and cooking. The students in the class each have a different reason for being in the class. There is the older married couple, the lawyer coping with loss, the young girl trying to find her way, the older woman whose memory isn’t quite what it should be, an Italian kitchen designer with a design problem, a new mother, and the software engineer who tends to look at things in black and white.

This book tells the story of these people and how they came to be in the class. Through the writing, you feel that you get to know them and will miss them when the story is over. There is not some big pivotal moment – it is a nice story. The book reminds me of a Maeve Binchy book. I don’t know if Maeve Binchy is still in as much favor as she once was but there was a time when I couldn’t wait for her next book. (I even saw her in person once. I could have been an author groupie…)

I sometimes feel that if I say, “it is a nice story” that that will undersell the book. The truth is that while we can appreciate books that share a lesson or review something about the world, it is great to just read a nice story and take a break from current events or history. That is what I am offering to you to read. A nice story to entertain you.

There is a second book in the series, The Lost Art of Mixing. I just got it from the library yesterday, so I can’t comment on it yet. But so far, so good.

Be good to yourself.

Thanks for reading!

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A Deception at Thornecrest by Ashley Weaver

Dear Fellow Reader,

Back in January, I reviewed the book Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver. (https://cecooney.com/2020/01/10/oh-those-cozies-three-cozy-mysteries/) Remember back in those good old days? That was back before we were all inside for the pandemic. ~sigh~ 

Anyway, I enjoyed that book and talked about reading the rest of the books in the series. I have been making my way through the series and then I found that I could get an advanced reader copy of the newest book in the series. ( So this is my unbiased review.) 

A Deception at Thornecrest finds Amory Ames at her summer residence, Thornecrest, waiting for the birth of her first child. Milo (her husband) is out for a few days but should return later that day. A guest arrives at the house and introduces herself as Milo’s wife, Mrs. Ames. Even though they have had several rocky years in their marriage, Amory is sure that the woman is not married to her Milo. But then the young woman identifies him in a picture. Needless to say, Milo has a lot to explain when he gets home. But then another person arrives at Thornecrest, who announces that he is Milo’s (surprise!) stepbrother. It would be hard to deny the relationship as they look amazingly alike. Milo is not happy with this arrival. (But could it explain the first visitor?)  

While they are trying to figure out the situation, there is a murder of a village youth at the village festival. Solving this mystery will take them some time to find out who is who they claim they are and who is not being entirely truthful.

This is another good cozy mystery and I have enjoyed the series. I will say that book 5 in the series, An Act of Villainy, has the biggest surprise ending. I will admit that I don’t usually spend any time trying to figure out “who done it”, when I am reading a mystery. When I get to the end, I generally am not surprised but I don’t put any effort into trying to solve the mystery. I just want to be entertained. I was surprised by the end and I was pleased to be surprised. I thought the author did a good job.

As I seem to have this thing about reading books that are in a series in order, I would suggest that you do the same. By doing so, you see the progression of the relationship between the two main characters. These mysteries are set in the 1930s so they are mysteries written to be from that era. The main characters are very rich. It is a time between the World Wars and the characters seem light and breezy.

Thanks for reading!

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Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries by Angie Fox

Woman_reading_at_the_beach

Dear Fellow Readers,

Yes, I have plenty of books to read that are best sellers or classics or perhaps just have bigger words in them.

BUT…

I occasionally need a palette cleanser.  I have no problem admitting it.  I do like cozy mysteries and will sometimes read a cozy that might have a theme that is totally unrealistic.  That is fine. I know that I am just resting my brain with these books.  And I like them for that reason.  Sometimes there is a pandemic and you get tired of reading that pile of books that you should read, and you need to read and let the story slide over you. These books are not to be mistaken for high literature. They will not be taught in school.  But they fulfill that break that you may be needing from your normal fare.

5186UWh9VoLOne of my series of choice currently is The Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries by Angie Fox.  As of right now, there are 13 books in the series.  They tell the story of Verity Long who lives in Sugarland, TN. Verity lives in the house that her Grandmother owned. The house is fairly empty because when she canceled her wedding (The groom tried to kiss her sister.) the groom’s mother sued her for every penny she had, which meant selling almost all her possessions.  The groom’s mother was also high society in Sugarland, and she made sure that Verity’s graphic design business was sunk before it got started.  Verity lives in the house with her pet skunk.  (yes, you read that right.) In going through the mostly empty house. She finds what she thinks is a dirty vase.  She cleans out all the debris in the bottom of the vase and dumps it in the rose bush outside her back door.

Of course, it wasn’t a dirty vase. It was a container of cremains for a gangster, Frankie.  It seems that since she dumped his ashes in the rose bush that he is now stuck at her house unless she takes his “vase” with her.  She also learns that he can transfer some power to her so that she can see things on the ghostly plane.

Okay, okay, it isn’t the latest Ann Patchett.  But the books are light and easy to read.  They give you a break from heavier reading and more than that, they give you a break from the monotony and depression surrounding the pandemic.  They are popcorn.  A good snack between meals.

Much to my surprise, you may be able to find some of them at your local library.  If you are looking for a break, I would suggest you try these stories.

Thanks for reading.

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Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

Here I am with another historical fiction book.  I’m not exactly sure how this happens.  I requested an advance reader copy of this book after reading the description.  I should keep the descriptions so I can tell what caught my eye.  I was given a copy of this book for my unbiased opinion.

For those of you who might be like me and a bit burned out on historical fiction books from the World War I or II eras, I hear you.  I would say this book has a bit of a twist on the other books. 

Paris Never Leaves You is written from Charlotte’s perspective. Charlotte is caught in Paris during World War II.  As the book opens, Charlotte is watching a group of people denigrating women who had relationships with German soldiers who had invaded Paris.  The townsfolk verbally assault the women and physically abuse them.  While it is not completely clear, you get the feeling that Charlotte is afraid that she will be next.

Next we move to 1950’s New York. Charlotte is working in the publishing industry.  The book moves between the war years and the 1950’s.  We see Charlotte’s current life with her daughter. We learn what happened to them during the war. And we come to understand Charlotte’s regrets and fears.  

While one does feel sorry for Charlotte and all she went through during the war, there is also a feeling that Charlotte takes the route through life that will get her through.  I wouldn’t say that she takes the high road most of the time. She is a survivor and I feel a bit bad casting aspersions on her methods, but overall when you finish the book and think back on Charlotte, I think she comes up a bit lacking in moral fiber. She knows that she has done wrong but rather than admitting what she has done, she has tried to keep hiding it. 

It is an interesting story, but if you are looking for a heroine  that you can think “wow, she made it through that”, I am not sure you will be satisfied with this story. The thing is that she doesn’t change. Even at the end of the book, her decisions are questionable. 

I will say that the time switches through the book are done well.  It was easy to tell where you were in the story.  It was and easy read and the story is presented well. 

Thanks for reading!

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The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Dear Fellow Reader,

Wow! What a year. I don’t know about you but I am overwhelmed by the news. I stopped reading and watching for several weeks. It was a relief but at some point I stuck my head back out to see what was going on. I haven’t immediately withdrawn again but there are times I wish I had.

I find that all the turbulence affects my reading. Yes, I have been reading but I have read many lighter fare mysteries that I can get lost in. At the start of the quarantine, I was behind on my Goodreads goal for the year. I am now 9 books ahead and I will easily admit that it certainly is not due to reading only great pieces of literature. But at the same time, I am thankful to those authors for their writing. They provide entertainment and present different points of view.

The book I want to introduce you to this week is NOT one of my lighter reads. As fair warning, it is a long book.

The Hearts Invisible Furies is the story of Cyril Avery. Cyril Avery is born in Ireland in 1945. Cyril is born to a single mother who was declared indecent by her local Catholic priest during Mass and thrown out of her home. His mother left for Dublin where she gave birth and gave him to a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun. Cyril is adopted by a wealthy couple who insist that he refer to them as his adoptive parents and is constantly told that he is not a real Avery.

Cyril is gay. Gay is not allowed in Ireland during the time he was growing up. It was punishable by jail and the Garda loved to beat up and imprison gay people. The Catholic Church had a firm hold on the country and there was no room for someone to be gay in Ireland. So, Cyril had to hide his true nature and spent 25 years feeling bad about himself and trying to hide his nature. When he leaves Ireland, he begins to find acceptance in the world but also heartbreak. Finally, as times change, he returns to Ireland to live out the end of his life.

The book shows us how ignorance can inflict pain and suffering on people – just for being who they are. Showing Cyril’s perspective from 1945 to about 2015 is enlightening for all the changes that have taken place in Ireland and the world.

Also, if you are unfamiliar with the control that the Catholic Church held in Ireland then it will be an eye opener for you.

The description of the book says that it will make you laugh and cry. I have to say that I didn’t laugh. While Cyril’s parents are different and probably the most humorous of all the characters, they are not laugh out loud characters. Cyril’s insecurities color most scenes. I felt so bad for Cyril and all he went through. But in case you are thinking that this book sounds like a downer that you wouldn’t want to read, it isn’t. Cyril goes through a lot, but he grows and finds a place of happiness and acceptance. He learns to believe in himself.

Yes, it is long. Yes, it is sad at times. But it is a worthwhile read. The other thing about the book is that the author ties all the characters together in remarkable ways. You might think someone is a minor character, but they won’t be by the end. Also, you wonder how long it will take two of the characters to figure out their relationship.

This is one of the best books I have read this year.

Thank you for reading!

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