Category Archives: First Novels

An Appetizing Mish-Mash: Delicious! by Ruth Reichl #weekendcooking @BethFishReads

cover imageDelicious! is a first novel by the long-time food writer and former editor of Gourmet Magazine, Ruth Reichl, and it’s a pleasant read. It makes a good book club choice because the themes are clear and there is a little something for everyone – a young woman’s journey into adulthood; a library scavenger hunt; budding romances; a race against time; a blend of contemporary New York life with small town life in World War II connected by old letters; and food! Enough talk about food and cooking to satisfy foodie readers.

Billie avoids her family by moving from California to New York, where her extraordinary palate and ability to discern various spices and ingredients lands her a job with the respected foodie magazine Delicious! (with an exclamation point).  When she gradually begins to uncover a trove of letters dating back to World War II written to a former magazine staffer (James Beard) Billie thinks they might be her own ticket to food writing fame.

Ruth Reichl is the author of several highly acclaimed memoirs about cooking, food writing, and being a restaurant critic, so she must have known she was going out on a limb by publishing a novel for the first time at age 60+. In fact, critical reviews kept me from reading this until it was a February book club choice, so I’m glad I finally gave it a chance. The parallels drawn between Billie’s life and the life of the young writer of the letters, Lulu, are a little obvious, but the multiple story lines and themes, as well as the twin quests that the two young women embark on in their different times, make it a good choice for a book club discussion, especially one with food!

Click here to read what our library book club thought of the book.

Delicious!
Reichl, Ruth
Whelan, Julia, narr.
Random House
May 2014

Disclosure: I received an advance reading copy (ARC) of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program a long time ago! I ended up reading parts of the published book (not the ARC) and listening to parts of it on audio. Narrator Julia Whelan does a great job with all of the voices, including the male ones.

Weekend Cooking buttonThis post is part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature on Beth Fish Reads. Click here for more Weekend Cooking posts from bloggers around the world.

Shadowy Victorian London: The Quick by Lauren Owen @steeldroppings R.I.P. IX

cover imageThe bookish cover design and these blurbs from authors I really like lured me into reading The Quick by Lauren Owen – over 500 pages of subtle suspense or passages of normal Victorian life, broken up by occasional scenes of intense horror.

“A suspenseful, gloriously atmospheric first novel, and a feast of gothic storytelling that is impossible to resist.” – Kate Atkinson


“A sly and glittering addition to the literature of the macabre…As soon as you have breathed with relief, much worse horrors begin. It’s a skilled, assured performance, and it’s hard to believe it is a first novel.” – Hilary Mantel


“Ambitious, elegant, atmospheric, and often deeply poignant, The Quick is a seamless blend of Victorian London and rich imagination. This is a book to savor.” – Tana French

 Literary fiction with horror elements, The Quick is an engrossing story of love, loss, bravery, and fear, set in a Victorian London where one of the many exclusive, men-only clubs is especially secretive about its mysterious members and club activities.

Oh, yeah. Almost forgot to mention…it’s a vampire novel!

RIP IX Badge
Art credit to Abigail Larson

 

Weekend Read: The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson (No Spoilers)

cover imageWith its many references to the Boston area, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson has been on my TBR* list since it came out last February, but once I finally opened it and read the beginning, I was hooked. I whipped through almost all of it in a single sitting on Saturday.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is a true literary thriller with references to novels and other literature here and there, and a main character, George Foss, who works in the accounting department of a struggling Boston literary magazine. The book is about the consequences of George’s running into the girl he fell head over heels in love with twenty years earlier during their first semester as freshmen at Mather College, whom he hadn’t seen or heard from since.

Author Peter Swanson is a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies. This comes through especially in the twisty pacing of the book and in several scenes during which I may have literally held my breath while reading. Boston-area readers will enjoy mentions of well-known local spots, including the Kowloon on Route 1 in Saugus, and trying to guess what actual locations the fictional locations might be (New Essex – That would probably be Essex, a seaside town north of Boston? And Mather, the New England liberal arts college George Foss attended – the author’s own alma mater, Trinity College in Connecticut?), but the characters and their motives are more interesting than the setting, so readers unfamiliar with the area won’t miss out on anything important to the story.

Although the meaning of the hard-to-remember title gets explained eventually, I assume The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is also a reference to the literary thriller The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo – another book billed as a stylish literary thriller. (The Girl with a Clock for a Heart has been optioned for film; I’ll be curious to see if a movie is given a different, easier-to-remember title.) As everyone knows, The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo was the first in a trilogy. I thought the same might be true here, but Peter Swanson denies that a sequel is in the works in this interview at Coot’s Reviews.

Even with a murder, police detectives, and a private investigator, also a blurb from Dennis Lehane on the cover and elements of noir, I wouldn’t suggest this to a reader looking for realistic crime fiction, but to a literary fiction reader who maybe also likes Patricia Highsmith or Dennis Lehane. You do have to be willing to suspend disbelief a few times and go along for the “sexy, electric thrill ride,” as Dennis Lehane describes the book.

Watch out for spoilers if you read other reviews. Better just get the book yourself, and read it quick!

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart
Swanson, Peter
William Morrow
Feb. 2, 2014
9780062267498
304 pp.
$25.99

*To Be Read