Nov 29, 2012

Review: The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister (TLC Book Tours)

This much anticipated follow-up to Bauermeister's THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS takes the reader back to Lillian's restaurant, but not for more cooking lessons. Lillian's is once again used as the cozy backdrop for the story but in a more subtle way. You still get the loving feel of the ingredients that go into the dishes she serves there, but a few characters from the first book are the obvious stars, along with some new faces who help tell their life stories.

The story picks up several months after the first book ends while the cooking classes are in between sessions. Lillian is, of course, front and center and we learn how her life has changed in those months. Others from the cooking class that are big parts of the story are Chloe, the insecure, former busser that Lillian hired; Isabelle, the older woman who is struggling to hold on to her precious memories; and Tom, the widower who lost his chef wife way too young to breast cancer. We add to them, the story of Al, Lillian's accountant who has made Lillian's an important part of his daily life; his wife, Louise, who has never been to the restaurant, nor ever met Lillian; Finnigan, the very tall, perceptively quiet dish washer who seems to know more than his nineteen years should allow; and we also meet Isabelle's son, daughter and grandson.  Each of these additional characters create more layers to an already developing storyline that, like each course of a fine dining experience, is like a memorable, delicious treat.

My Thoughts:

I can honestly say I didn't have any idea where this second book was going to lead. With so many interesting characters in the first book, there were many options for the author to take. I had really taken a liking to Chloe and even had a protective feeling over her, so I was really happy that she was a center point in this book. It was nice to see how she was becoming more sure of herself and I especially enjoyed her relationship with Isabelle. The character of Al was a complete surprise and.  I initially found him to be a bit odd. His relationship with his wife, Louise, was also a bit strange yet later in the story, I felt bad for her for being left out of so much of Al's life. It certainly proves a point I, myself, learned in my own marriage: That you can live with the person you are supposed to be the closest to in life, but much later down the road find that not only does that person not know the real you, but you begin questioning everything you thought you knew about them. Its a harsh reality that some can overcome but many cannot. I'd have to say, however that the new character of Finnigan was my favorite. He is wise for his age, kinder than most, and has such a subtle way with people and that really struck a chord with me. I like the possibility of he and Chloe making a go of it. (It's OK, I really didn't give anything away there!)

To wrap this up, I'll simply say this book was the perfect sequel that also leaves so many more possibilities for future releases.  Not surprisingly, the prose was lovely and had the same warm ebb and flow as we've come to expect from this talented writer. Erica Bauermweister, with the help of Lillian, had me yearning to be in a kitchen, laying out fresh goods and produce just collected from the farmer's market, and planning what herbs and spices to add to make delcious treasures to serve people I care about. That is how chefs and people who love to cook feel about food and this book brings all that out while at the same time telling the character's stories beautifully. If you couldn't tell already, I really enjoyed this book and I will always look forward to what is next from this author

There are many stops on this blog tour and you can find the entire list here. Be sure to visit these other blogs for more insights and opinions to this nove..  Special thanks to Lisa @ TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate in this tour.

Author: Erica Bauermeister
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Scheduled Publishing Date: January 24, 2013
Pages: 228
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Nov 24, 2012

Thankfully Reading 2012: Day 3 Challenge

Today's challenge question has to do with bookish family memories.  Jenn has asked us...What family bookish memories do you have? 

Well, this one is a bit harder for me to answer because, unfortunately, not many members of my family are readers. I remember discovering my love of books and reading in Mrs. McPherson's fourth grade class. Not long after, my aunt and uncle gave me a very special Christmas present. I don't even know if they realized how special it was to me. They gave me the entire set of Laura Engalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie books! I coveted those books and guarded them with my life! They were beautiful! That is my favorite family bookish memory!

I hope you enjoyed my answer to this challenge question....Now its back to reading!!

Nov 23, 2012

Thankfully Reading: Day 2 Challenge

For the second day of Thankfully Reading Weekend Jenn has asked this question: What Book Are You Most Thankful For This Year? 

My answer to this question came to my mind so quickly and easily. It is THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE by Jenny Wingfield. It is a debut novel that I absolutely LOVED.  Southern Lit at its absolute finest. And I am not alone in my feelings about this book. I read this as part of a TLC Book Tour and the other participants loved it as well. You can read my review here. It is the book I've recommended the most.

Its A Thankfully Reading Weekend!

You won't find me at any retail store on this Black Friday! Or any Black Friday for that matter. I'm not one to fight crowds  and get up at 3:00 am to get a bargain. Honestly, I've never really understood the whole thing, probably because I'm not a big shopper. What I choose to do instead is to stay home and participate in the annual Thankfully Reading Weekend Read-A-Thon, hosted by Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves. This year, she has invited Jennifer from Literate Housewife to be her co-host!  For more info head over to Jenn's blog and to sign up. Its not too late and there are no rules to follow - its just a weekend full of books and reading! Seeing as how I wound up in the ER yesterday getting 10 stitches in my finger and the fact that my left hand feels like a club, reading at home is a good place for me to be this weekend!

I've got several books I'm going to be reading from that I'm excited about. And I'll be posting my progress on Twitter here:  @SouththrnGrlReads And you can follow all the participants using the hashtag #ThankfullyReading.

Some of the books I'll be reading from include LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel, THE SECRET SENSE OF WILDFLOWER by Susan Gabriel, ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE by Jess Riley and I'm going to start a re-read of Faulkner's classic THE SOUND AND THE FURY. I'm also going to continue listening to BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French. That should keep me busy all through the weekend, don't ya think?

So, I'm off to start reading....

Nov 19, 2012

Review: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson (Audio)

Whenever I pick up a Jashilyn Jackson novel I know without a doubt that I am delving into a story that is going to grab my heart and not let go. But I also know there's going to be some laughs along the way. In A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY, that couldn't be more true.

This heartwarming story of three Southern women from three generations in the Slocumb family is centered around Mosey, Liza's daughter. Liza hasn't had it easy since becoming a mother at a very young age, but there is no mistaking her love for her daughter. Liza's mother, Jenny, who was also young when she had Liza, has one rule: You always put family first. That's why when Liza showed up on her doorstep after being gone for almost two years with her baby girl on her hip, Liza didn't hesitate to take her and the toddler in. Since Jenny hadn't seen them since Mosey was just itty-bitty, she was thrilled to be a part of her grand-daughter's life and feel into the role as matriarch swiftly and smoothly. It was obvious to Jenny that Liza had some issues but she didn't press it - she was just happy they were finally back home where they belonged.

When Mosey is fifteen, the Slocumb's world is turned upside down when while removing a tree from the back yard to make room for a swimming pool, a small grave is unearthed. This shakes the Slocumb women to the core. Jenny is shocked, Liza, who has suffered a stroke and cannot communicate well is visibly shaken and Mosey is determined to find out who the grave belongs to and why it was in their back yard. Each of these women, in their own way, are looking for answers but in the process discover even more secrets about their family. It is Jenny who is bound and determined to do whatever she must do to keep their small family in tact, hopefully before the police figure it out first.

My Thoughts:

This story has everything I'd expected it to have: love, friendship, loyalty, humor and a little small-town drama.  The characters were rich in so many ways. I instantly loved Jenny, the too-young-to-be-a-grandmother, grandmother, who loves her family unconditionally and will do anything to protect it. Liza, even though held captive in her own body due to a stroke, fought for her family as best she could, and Mosey was simply a terrific character with no fear and a sense of adventure that she didn't back down from. The supporting characters rounded out the story, giving it a believable small-town feel.

Ms. Jackson reveals the secrets of the Slocumb women beautifully through the voices of each character as they share in telling the story. I chose to listen to this on audio after I sampled it on and heard Joshilyn Jackson's own voice as the narrator. It was pure perfection! It didn't feel like I was listening to a book, it was more like I was sitting with a fellow southerner who was telling me the story of her family. She did an amazing job of channeling each character all the while leaving me totally entertained and satisfied.

A GROWN-UP KIND OF PRETTY is one of those books that after you finish it, you miss the people in the story and feel the hole they've left in your heart when they're gone. This is one of my favorite Joshilyn Jackson novels and I recommend it highly!

Author: Joshilyn Jackson publish Date: January 2012
Length: 12 hrs 25 min / 352 Printed Pages
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Nov 7, 2012

Review: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister (Paperback)

THE SCHOOL OF ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS by Erica Bauermeister is one of those books that was stuck on my mind since it came out in January 2009.  As a lover of cooking and all things food, I knew right away that I  wanted to read this book and I had every intention of doing so, but it just never happened. The only excuse I have is that there are simply too many great books out there and not enough time to get to all of them. Its a flimsy excuse, but it's all I got. That said, with the follow-up being released soon and being included on the tour, it was the perfect opportunity for me to finally get it read.

This beautifully written story of Lillian, a restaurant owner and cook, who closes her doors on Monday evenings to teach a cooking class, is the perfect book to read if you're looking for something calm, soothing and just plain lovely.  The story begins with how and why Lillian has such a love for food and cooking. You get a real feel for what kind of woman she is and, in my case, I instantly adored her. Her calm and graceful persona brings out the goodness of those around her, especially her students, who all seem to adore her as well.

As the classes continue, the reader is given insight to each of the people who show up eager to learn the next lesson and what brought each of them to be taking this class. With each passing week, the students are also learning more about each other, new friendships are formed through their interests in cooking and, thanks to Lillian, they begin to appreciate the simplicity of good food.

My Thoughts:

I really, really enjoyed this book and the journey in getting to know the students in the cooking class. Lillian is a great character and had a warmth about her that is inviting and soothing. Simply put, this is not a book filled with twists and turns and second-guessing about motives. This is a book that should be savored like a nice glass of wine after dinner - a book not to be rushed through. The characters are interesting and each of their stories are important and I enjoyed them very much.

This book is a quick read that is perfect for those times when you've just finished an intense book and are looking for something to make you feel good inside. All of the reviews that I read back when this book was first published were right on. I'm really looking forward to THE LOST ART OF MIXING, the follow-up to this book. I'll be posting my review later this month (the 29th), as part of the TLC Book Tour.

Author: Erica Bauermeister
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Published: January 2010
Pages: 261
Rating: 4 Stars out of 5