My husband moved to Fredericksburg thirteen months before I did. The three-hour commute between our two worlds birthed my obsession with recorded books. Even though we now share only one home, the obsession remains. Once I began listening to The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman, I became so engrossed in the story that I looked for any reason to drive…indefinitely.
The title character—the cookbook collector—plays only a minor role, but one around whom all others orbit. Tom McClintock was a renowned lichenologist who filled his somewhat reclusive life with cookbooks, both obscure and valuable. Upon his death, McClintock’s estate is inherited by his niece Sandra. In need of money to help her daughter gain custody of her children, Sandra approaches used/antique bookstore owner, George Friedman, about purchasing the entire collection. George agrees to review the cookbooks and brings along his free-spirited clerk, Jessamine Bach, for assistance. George very seldom displays anything but his gruff side, yet he secretly pines for the lovely Jess.
Why red roses on Valentine’s Day? The language of flowers was invented for communication between lovers—a flower can send a coded message. Red roses represent passionate, romantic love. Pink roses are sent for friendship. Shakespeare uses the language of flowers when Ophelia gives Hamlet rosemary for remembrance before she ends her life.
Victoria Jones, in The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is obsessed with the subject, but she uses it to spread animosity. Having aged out of the foster care system in California and facing imminent homelessness, her life reads like a series of unfortunate events.
Linger by Maggie Stiefvater is the second book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. I choose to read this book because the author is actually a Westmoreland County, Virginia resident. It goes along with the contemporary interest in mythical creatures, with werewolves being the focus of this book. The film rights for this story have been bought by Unique Features/ Warner Brothers and a screenplay has been written. The final book in the series, Forever, came out early 2011.
Sam and Grace are in love. They can finally be together through the entire year. Sam's werewolf past made it hard for them to be together during prior winters, because the cold weather triggers Sam's inner werewolf. This causes him to spend months lost in his werewolf form, making it impossible for him to be with Grace. Since Sam is now a full-time human, they are certain they will be together forever. Everything is perfect, except that Grace can’t kick a fever she has been having recently. Sam and Grace are unsure about what their future has in store for them now due to Grace's sickness. They only know that they want to be together.
Most books about pet adoption are told from the child’s or family’s point of view. But Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw explores the delights of adopting a shelter cat from the cat’s perspective. During visiting hours, he pretends not to care but can’t resist taking a peek. On the car ride to his new home, he begs to be let out, only to insist on being let back in. In true cat fashion, he is sure of his own importance. He certainly deserves a name worthy of an oriental prince. “Won Ton? How can I / be soup? Some day, I’ll tell you / my real name. Maybe.”
Trinity, our greyhound mix, was a natural leader. She would break up cat fights by putting her head between the fighting cats. Whenever there was dissent among our dogs, she would stare them down until they retreated. When our cat was dying and had to sleep in the bathroom the night before she took her final trip to the vet, Trinity slept on the other side of the door. We had no idea what a positive effect she had on the dynamics of our household until she passed away. Now the cats fight right next to one of our dogs' heads and they just lie there looking at them as if to say, “Will you look at that!”
The novel Rose in a Storm is Jon Katz's first fiction in 10 years. Jon Katz usually writes nonfiction books about his farm, Bedlam Farm, an hour outside of Albany, NY, where ironically, his lead farm dog is named Rose. It is a wonderful example of how a little book can be so much more than the reader expects. The book is written from Rose’s perspective. Rose is the best farm dog in the county, and her reputation is so good that other farmers have borrowed Rose when they have had problems on their farms. She and Sam, the farmer, share an excellent non-verbal bond as they work the farm on a daily basis. But their life is turned upside down when a catastrophic blizzard envelops the farm and all of the animals that they have are in danger of freezing to death or being attacked by coyotes.
What would you do if your daughters ran away? Live Through This, by Debra Gwartney, is the true story of a mother who lost two of her daughters to the grunge subculture of the 1990s. They began hating everything about her--not just two teenagers fighting with their mother but a feud. Meanwhile, they totally submerged themselves into depression. Shortly after the girls became obsessed with the movement, Gwartney lost them fully to the streets. This story is a unique account by a mother of her lost relationship with her daughters.
There are six things very wrong with my life:
I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
It is on my nose.
I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic “teachers."
I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.
- I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.
And so begins Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison. It is the diary of Georgia, a British fourteen-year-old whose wit and dry humor will keep you laughing out loud and receiving annoyed looks from your sister who’s “trying to do her homework.”
It's Maggie's favorite day of the year in Wende and Harry Devlin's Cranberry Thanksgiving. She and her grandmother live on a New England cranberry farm. It's lonely and cold at the edge of the sea, but on Thanksgiving the house is warm with lots of good cooking. As part of their family tradition, Maggie and Grandma have each invited someone who otherwise would have to spend Thanksgiving alone.
There are definitely times when friends and neighbors need a little comfort food. It might be a joyful event--new baby, new house--or it might be in sorrowful times such as a long illness, death, or divorce. Chef Sara Quessenberry and writer Suzanne Schlosberg’s The Good Neighbor Cookbook is an excellent source for the family cook who needs some fresh ideas for food to share.
Recipes range from savory (Smoky Corn Chowder) to sweet (Roasted Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies). They are designed to satisfy, to travel well, and to not require a lot of fussing in the kitchen. Although these recipes work great for times of crisis, these same qualities make them great for book club gatherings, church potlucks, or business breakfasts.
In 1950, in South Korea, shoe-shiner Jin-tae Lee and his 18-year-old old student brother, Jin-seok Lee, form a poor but happy family with their mother, Jin-tae's fiancé Young-shin Kim, and her young sisters. Jin-tae and his mother are tough workers, who sacrifice themselves to send Jin-seok to the university. When North Korea invades the South, the family escapes to a relative's house in the country, but along their journey, Jin-seok is forced to join the army to fight in the front, and Jin-tae enlists too to protect his young brother. The commander promises Jin-tae that if he gets a medal he would release his brother, and Jin-tae becomes the braver soldier in the company. Along the bloody war between brothers, the relationship of Jin-seok with his older brother deteriorates leading to a dramatic and tragic end. (From the Internet Movie Database)