In the debut novel North of the Tension Line by J. F. Riordan, Fiona Campbell is a writer currently living in Ephraim and formerly from Milwaukee and Chicago. This novel is leisurely-paced, character-driven, and humorous, and most loose ends are tied up neatly at the end. Fiona’s friend Elisabeth runs a gallery and has a dog named Rocco.
I have long been a fan of author Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her romance stories are written with style and grace, and most times love conquers all when the story comes to a happy ever after ending. She certainly surprised me with her latest book, Heroes are My Weakness. Even though the title hints at a romantic setting, this one has a much darker and serious feel to it. In some ways, the beginning had elements of classic gothic romances like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
This is the story of Lila, the much younger wife of Reverend John Ames, first introduced in the Pulitzer prize-winning novel Gilead. Marilynne Robinson’s books, Gilead,Home, and Lilaare set in the small Iowa town of Gilead and are about things of the heart and spirit.
It might be the chill in the air, or the fact that winter is right around the corner, but lately I seem to be drawn to books about food. The storyline in The Glass Kitchen: a novel of sisters by Linda Francis Lee revolves around food, but is also the story of a young woman plucked from her childhood home in Texas and dropped into the bustling world of Manhattan. Struggling to make a new life for herself, with the help of her sisters, Portia Cuthcart uses her kitchen as a refuge which allows her to forgive, forget, and open herself up to her unique gift of magical food.
Horrorstor (there's actually an umlaut over the last "o") is a parody and ghost story that looks like a catalog from Orsk, a fictional big-box Ikea store knock-off selling faux Scandinavian furnishings with faux Scandinavian names. Main character Amy is a young woman with failed dreams who works at Orsk along with her gung-ho supervisor Basil, mature co-worker Ruth Anne, attractive co-worker Trinity, and wannabe filmmaker Matt.
International bestselling author Jenny Colgan writes delicious little books that I consider total chick-lit. Similar to author Sophie Kinsella, most of Colgan's novels are set in England or France, and are fun reads filled with terms like "bugger" and "sod" that make the stories that much more engaging to me. The books I have read so far are Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, and Sweetshop of Dreams. Each story is unique, and all contain recipes guaranteed to make your sweet tooth tingle.
The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney was definitely a change from my normal reading. Seeing the word dog in the title of the book is what initially caught my eye, but once I started reading I soon realized this was not a cute little dog story, but a tender story of broken people and broken dogs and how they help one another. It took a few chapters to get into the book, but I soon discovered that dogs and humans really are very much alike.
The mathematician in the debut novel Mathematician’s Shiva is Rachela Karnokovitch, a fictional professor at the University of Wisconsin who was a Polish-born Soviet defector and formidable woman of intellect. This is an enjoyable book for those who like to read humorous and heartwarming stories with a Wisconsin connection. The story is told by her son Sasha as he looks back on the time in January 2001 when she died, and the family observed shiva, the Jewish custom of 7 days of mourning.
Summer is winding down and beach season is almost over. In a feeble attempt to hold on to those last days of summer I grabbed On the Rocks by Erin Duffy off of the new fiction shelves. The cover picture displays what looks like a tranquil afternoon spent on the beach, but this book was anything but tranquil. On the Rocks is a well written and highly amusing look at one woman's attempt to put her life back together after a very public breakup - via Facebook.
Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark is a satirical debut novel about the food additives industry. In 1973 David is a young flavor chemist or flavorist hired by a big company to research an artificial sweetener called Sweetness #9. He notices that the lab rats and monkeys being fed Sweetness #9 are becoming obese and showing behavioral problems. Before he gets very far with his concerns, he is fired.