Miss Amelia Blanchard has won just about every cooking contest in the greater Riverville, Texas area, so it came as a shock when her Heavenly Texas Pecan Caviar didn't even win an honorable mention at the "Most Original Pecan Treat" contest at the Agriculture Fair. Even more shocking was the death of judge Pastor Jenkins right after tasting it, and now Miss Amelia and her granddaughter Lindy must find out who added the secret ingredient - poisonous hemlock - before Miss Amelia's reputation is ruined forever. This is the second book in Michigan author Lee's Nut House Mystery series, and it is cute. And she'll be here chatting with customers and signing her books on Saturday, February 7th from 11:30am-1:30pm.
It takes a lot of freelance writing gigs to keep Jaine Austen's spoiled cat Prozac in Hearty Halibut Guts, so she's thrilled when Joy Amoroso, owner of the exclusive dating service Dates of Joy wants her for an extensive job. Except Jaine quickly discovers that Dates of Joy isn't exclusive at all. The potential dates are fake. Joy has been ripping people off. She's selfish with her Godiva chocolates. She's mean to her employees. And no one would be unhappy if she were dead. Which she is, from a poisoned Godiva chocolate, during her 'social event of the year' Valentine's Day party. And if Jaine is to get paid from her nipped-short job, she needs to find the killer fast. Levine's heroine reminds me of a Los Angeles-based Stephanie Plum - her mysteries are filled with funny characters and hapless encounters, and are a great (quick read) for a winter afternoon.
Dr. Reagan Bishop is the star of an enormously popular cable show (think anything by Oprah) - she regularly changes lives by pushing participants in the the right direction as they overcome destructive behaviors. She's always been an overachiever. Unfortunately, her family doesn't quite recognize her greatness and seems to prefer Reagan's underachieving sisters. When the show is purchased by a national network, Reagan is pressured to deliver unreasonably fast results and, desperate to keep her job and all the perks that go with it, she enlists the help of the show's spiritual adviser Deva - to hilarious results. Lancaster is a funny, funny writer and has a particular gift in giving voice to selfish, entitled, and self-centered - but still weirdly likable - characters. I especially enjoyed her bringing back Deva and referencing characters from her previous book, Here I Go Again.
I happened to mention to my senior-in-high-school daughter that while I've never learned a proper love for Shakespeare, I opine that Iago is the most brilliant villain in literature, in that he does evil and ruins lives without ever lifting a finger. And that I would like to reread Othello without being mired in academic analysis. For Christmas, she gifted me with two copies of the Sparknotes version - meaning the translation is on the opposite page - along with a note that we would have a book group of two. A brilliant gift, yes? Julia's review this week is about the plot, so aside from the above genius-of-Iago statement, I won't go into that. But I would encourage any parent, relative, or friend to follow suit. Pick up two copies of a book - maybe a classic or and old favorite - and read together. It was one of the best gifts I've ever received and a joy to share.
Funny story. I'd been eyeballing this book on the shelf for quite some time; I received a new sewing machine for my birthday, and needed an easy project to give it a trial run. On the day I was going to purchase it, it was gone. I could not for the life of me remember the title (admittedly not a good thing for a professional bookseller), but when I asked Mel (who does our receiving and often remembers these things), she was pretty cagey about it. Come to find out, she was my Staff Secret Santa and had already bought it. And I love it. It contains six patterns - from tops to skirts to jackets - that make into six different styles each, and each one has six more fabric suggestions to vary the look - a total of 216 projects. The book is very nicely laid out and illustrated, with clear instructions and lots of tips. I have a two-day 'sewing vacation' with Karin already scheduled, so I'll let you know how my first project turns out.
Customarily, one writes a book review about a book's content. I'm quite sure everyone reading this has read A Christmas Carol - if not every year, then certainly many, many times. It's a wonderful classic and you don't need me to tell you that. It's the cover and binding of this volume that make it special and worthy of gift giving or adding to your own holiday book collection. We've received a special collection of classics - of which this is one - all bound with different colors of leather-like covers, and they are cleverly embossed with phrases, quotes, and words from the book. Individually, they are lovely, but they make a great collection too - not even Jill had all of these classics on her shelves...
I have a tendency to gravitate towards cozies at this time of year as I drop into bed late and with little ability to concentrate for long. I've read and enjoyed Duffy Brown's Savannah Resale Shop series, and was surprised that this very southern writer has started a new series set on Mackinac Island. Evie Bloomfield is hoping to secure a promotion at her Chicago advertising firm by helping her boss's father revitalize his island bike rental shop. Her task is harder when Rudy's nemesis is found dead between two trees at the bottom of a steep hill - with her brake lines cut and the cutters found in Rudy's shop. The handsome police chief adds to the drama, of course. There are two more titles slated for release in this series, and it's certainly fun to read about a place with which we are very familiar.
Turn-of-the-century Chicago is the background for this fictionalized story of Marshall Field, who turned his dry goods store into the glamorous department store that bears his name. He and his partners used the new money of the opulent Gilded Age to their advantage, but with success came disgrace in the form of socialite Delia with whom he had a scandalous thirty-year affair. Their story is riveting, and I'm very much looking forward to (spoiler alert) author Rosen's visit to Saturn next summer...
Jill's family has collected Christmas smokers for years, so when she found these imported, German smokers at a gift show she couldn't resist having them in the store. They sold out completely within two weeks. We are carrying them again this year for those who want to add to their collection and they came in just this week. We have a charming variety of both the traditional wood gnomes and fun characters, including a grill master, gardener, snowman, and fisherman, and we also stock the incense cones. Insert one into the smoker, light the cone, extinguish it, and enjoy a lovely tradition (and a holiday-scented house...).
First of all, the cover of this book is gorgeous with its shiny iridescent lettering on the matte cover. Secondly, it's really, really dense. Thirdly, it's the funniest thing I've read in a long time. I adore Tina Fey (whose book Bossypants was just as smart and funny as Tina) and Amy Poehler. Can't you just imagine how much fun they'd be on a Girl's Night? This book is the next best thing. It's a candid mix of anecdotes, autobiography, and self-help - as in, she shares her wisdom and advice but doesn't expect you're actually going to follow it. Sometimes poignant and always hilarious, Yes Please became a NYT bestseller in its first week. I feel like Amy would be pleased...and surprised.