All posts by Laurie C

I'm a public librarian in Massachusetts who loves to give reading suggestions, whether asked-for or not, a specialty known in library jargon as "reader's advisory". I read a lot -- mostly literary, genre, and young adult fiction, but also short stories and memoirs -- and listen to a lot of audiobooks. Newer favorites include Patry Francis, Donna Tartt, Meg Wolitzer, Lev Grossman, Jennifer Egan, Laurie R. King, Lionel Shriver, Carolyn Parkhurst, Penny Vincenzi, Michael Connelly, Alexander McCall Smith, Orson Scott Card, Patrick Rothfuss, Martha Southgate, Jennifer Haigh, Zadie Smith, and Louise Penny. Some older favorites are Lorrie Moore, Anne Tyler, Ian McEwan, Susan Howatch, and Connie Willis.

National Book Award Finalists @nationalbook

NBA logoThe Bluestocking Society has the list of National Book Award finalists with an organized and attractive lineup of all the book covers, too, so head over there to see the full list of National Book Award finalists and comment on which ones you’ve read. (Me=none, so far, but definitely plan to read Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her soon, after listening to audiobook edition of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao ten years late.)

This year’s ratio of male to female authors? 13:7.

Click here for the National Book Awards site to find out more about the awards process and the National Book Foundation’s mission to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America” with these annual awards.

4,565 people like the National Book Awards on Facebook, and you can follow the NBA on Twitter, too. Something just seems wrong about that.

Blog Tour: Heaven Should Fall by Rebecca Coleman

Blog Tour badgeHeaven Should Fall, the second novel by Rebecca Coleman, author of The Kingdom of Childhood, opens with the striking scene of a young wife coming out to the shed behind the house to call her handsome husband Cade to lunch, calmly observing to herself that the project he’s finishing up is a pipe bomb, which he adds to a nearby box of already-completed pipe bombs. After hooking readers with those first two pages, the story jumps back to many months earlier, with Jill and Cade engaged to be married but still in college at the University of Maryland, before circumstances force them to move in with Cade’s family in northern New Hampshire, where Jill finally meets the dysfunctional Olmstead clan.

The scene at the beginning of the book symbolizes what Jill calls “the slow erosion of my husband,” and the novel provides the details of the erosion. Through flashbacks and many shifts in perspective, the background history of the Olmsteads emerges – Cade, the baby of the family; his downtrodden mother; abusive father; hard-edged sister, and his older brother Elias, just discharged from the Army after a tour in Afganistan. Jill, however, is willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, especially Cade, and sees this time in New Hampshire as just a temporary departure from normal life. Jill, the daughter of a single mother who grew up on the themes of recovery and the Big Book of AA, still grieving over her mother’s recent death, gradually realizes her complete and utter dependence on a gun-toting family of extremists that takes New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto literally and ignores their wide array of mental health issues, to avoid government interference in their lives.

I’m not sure of the meaning of the cover photo of a little girl hugging a U.S. flag, as there is no little girl in the story and the military plays a background role only in Elias’ story. Heaven Should Fall‘s strong plot and troubled characters in a desperate situation should appeal to readers of Jodi Picoult’s novels, as suggested in a Library Journal review quoted on the back cover, as will the way the story builds to a climax that explains the scene at the beginning. Although readers may wish some of her decisions were different, Jill remains a sympathetic character throughout,  and getting into the head of Cade’s mother helps us feel sympathetic towards her, too.

To read the first chapter of Heaven Should Fall by Rebecca Coleman in full, check out the complete list of tour stops.

Scavenger Hunt Excerpt – October 8 (#11)
One soldier after another worked his jaw around a piece of gum, and I thought about what Cade had said on the highway.
At last Cade’s searching gaze snapped into recognition, and he uncoiled his arms from their crossed position against his chest. “Hey, dude,” he said, clasping Elias’s extended hand, then pulling him into a hug unimpeded by the flat ribbon of the walkway marker wedged between them. “I missed you, man.”

Heaven Should Fall
Coleman, Rebecca
MIRA Books
September 25, 2012
978-0-7783-1389-2
368 pp.
$15.95, U.S./$18.95, CAN.

Disclaimer: I received a free advance reading copy of Heaven Should Fall from the publisher in exchange for participation in the blog tour and a fair and honest review.

Weekend Cooking: Moosewood Restaurant and Mollie Katzen’s Cookbooks

Badge for Weekend Cooking feature

After almost 30 years of putting dinner together a few times a week, I turn to the same cookbooks again and again: the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks and cookbooks by Mollie Katzen, originally part of the Moosewood collaborative.

Greek Pasta Salad, made from recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

With the garden produce dying out, I wanted to make at least one last lunch from stuff picked fresh from the garden. Since a few cute baby eggplants were ready to pick, as well as cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers, and since we had Kalamata olives and feta cheese in the fridge, I pulled out one of my most used cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, for its Greek Pasta Salad recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any fresh dill (which really adds to the salad’s flavor) or scallions (which I meant to replace with red onion, but forgot) but the salad was still delicious.

Book cover imageThe Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY, includes fish on its vegetarian menus, so a few recipes call for fish or shellfish, but most of the recipes are completely vegetarian. What I like about the Moosewood cookbooks is that they use only ingredients that can be pretty easily found if you’re anywhere near a large town, so you don’t have to make a special visit to a natural foods store before using the cookbooks. They also make great reading, with their entertaining recipe introductions and casual air of friends in the kitchen; Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks also have pleasing illustrations and a friendly design. The recipe directions imply confidence in your culinary skills, giving you enough information but not an overload of strict precautions and precise measurements. None of them have intimidating glossy color photos of meals that look like they were made by professional chefs or put together by food stylists.

Another old favorite, The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas, didn’t survive the transition from just-married to three-child family and Laurel’s Kitchen‘s didn’t survive the transition from country to city life, but the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks, as well as several by Mollie Katzen (especially Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest) have been the source of many favorite family meals over the years.

A neighborhood landmark, the Moosewood Restaurant has been owned and operated by a collective of the people who work there for almost 40 years, and was named one of the 13 most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appetit. (See Cornell Daily Sun article.) The Moosewood Collective also donated its papers, including some original cookbook manuscripts, to Cornell University’s Carl A. Kroch Library.

Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Click here to check out all Weekend Cooking blog posts. A printable list of my favorite Moosewood cookbooks is on Book Lists page.