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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #678

Sun, 08/12/2018 - 1:09pm by muffy

Second acts for 2 chef/entrepreneurs; a glimpse into the fine-dining industry; and a delight for foodies.


The first in a food-centered series, The Saturday Night Supper Club by RITA Award winner Carla Laureano opens with the hectic kitchen scene at Paisley, one of Denver’s hottest fine-dining restaurants under Chef Rachel Bishop. When a negative review and a subsequent editorial went viral, she was forced out by her business partners.

Guilty and contrite over his part in the whole debacle, essayist Alex Kanin wanted nothing more than a chance to help rebuild Rachel’s career, and urged Rachel into using his gorgeous loft apartment to host an exclusive supper club. As the pair worked together closely, they found their interest in each other was more than business.

“Bright, jovial, and peppered with romance and delectable cuisine, this is a sweet and lively love story.” (Booklist)


The Booklist reviewer called Hot Mess * by Emily Belden, “an exhilarating debut...(f)ull of heart, heat, and passion”.

In this restaurant rom-com, when twentysomething Allie Simon met Benji Zane, Chicago’s young celebrity chef, she was a goner. Charismatic, sexy, and newly clean from a history of drug use, Benji talked Allie into investing her life-saving to open a new restaurant as their future together. Then Benji disappeared, leaving Allie to pick up the pieces just as the restaurant was about to open. “Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.”

*= Starred review

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Throwback Thursday: Nobody's Fool

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 11:31am by eapearce

Nobody's Fool book cover

With so many new, buzzed-about books coming out all the time, it can be easy to forget about the oldies but goodies. In Throwback Thursday, we celebrate some of the books that are just as enjoyable now as they were when they were written years ago. This week, we take a look at Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo’s 1993 novel, Nobody’s Fool.

I was a little skeptical when my partner first recommended Nobody’s Fool to me, partly because it’s a somewhat daunting tome—the copy I have comes in at just under 550 pages—and partly because he said about Donald Sullivan, the main character: “He’s a dirtbag with a heart of gold—you’ll love him.” Within the first ten pages of the book, however, I was drawn in by Russo’s amazing dexterity with words and his incredibly personable, full characters.

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #677

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 10:47pm by muffy


Fans of Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (Library Journal) will find much to like with  Nova Jacobs’ “(h)ugely entertaining” (Wall Street Journal) debut The Last Equation Of Isaac Severy : A Novel In Clues * *

Within days of his apparent suicide (a string of live Christmas lights in the hot tub), Hazel Severy receives a cryptic message from her adopted grandfather, the renowned mathematical genius Isaac Severy, urging her to track down his last equation, safeguard it from a shadowy organization determined to profit from it, all without seeking help from the extended Severy family, including her brother Gregory, a LAPD detective.

Hazel, the owner of a struggling Seattle bookstore feels ill-equipped for the task until she stumbles unto an unlikely ally, but not before death claims 2 more members of the Severy family.

“The story of how Hazel grapples with that daunting instruction...delivers all the page-turning suspense of a mystery novel laced with insights into modern mathematics and quantum physics, and into the dynamics of family relationships. A brilliant first novel…” (Booklist)

* * = 2 starred reviews

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #676, “Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.” ~ Aristotle

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 9:21pm by muffy


The Summer List * by Amy Mason Doan.

Seventeen years after fleeing her home in Coeur-de-Lune, Laura Christie is lured into returning to this small lakeside town by an invitation from Alex, her estranged friend Casey Shepard’s free-spirited mother with the promise of one last scavenger hunt.

“Over the course of a weekend, secrets will be uncovered, misunderstandings will be cleared, and one final, shocking revelation will change everything Laura and Casey thought they knew about their childhoods. This is a lovely debut by Doan, exploring themes of motherhood, daughterhood, and first love with tenderness and humor." (Booklist)

"With a vivid sense of place and characters as real as your high school besties, this debut novel is sure to please fans of Kristin Hannah and Elin Hilderbrand." (Library Journal)

* = Starred review


queen_of_heartsThe Queen of Hearts, Kimmery Martin's debut is "a medical drama executed with just the right balance of intensity, plot twists, tragedy, and humor." Narrated in turns by pediatric cardiologist Zadie Anson and trauma surgeon Emma Colley who remain each other's best friend through college, med school, tragedies and heartbreaks while balancing demanding careers and growing families. 

But when Dr. Nick Xenokostas re-enters their lives, Zadie's brief but complicated relationship with Nick forces the women to grapple with a potentially friendship-ending secret.

"Emotional and difficult to put down, Martin's excellent story of friendship is shrewdly plotted and contains a cast of flawed, rich, believable characters. The realistic and vivid medical angle (Martin is an ER doctor) adds to the novel's appeal." (Publishers Weekly)

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Lisa Genova Can Make You Cry

Wed, 07/18/2018 - 2:27pm by mbt

photo from book Every Note PlayedIf you're prone to crying when reading a touching story, then do not read the end of Lisa Genova's Every Note Played in a public place. If you're like me, you will be reading through blurry eyes as you wipe away tears. Genova's latest book is like her others, Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love Anthony and Inside the O’Briens, in that she writes about a neurological disease, this time ALS. Richard is a world famous pianist, divorced from Karina and an absent father to Grace, who is stricken with ALS at the height of his career.  When Karina takes on the job as his caretaker, a story of forgiveness and self realization for both characters emerges. 

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #675

Sun, 07/15/2018 - 10:48am by muffy

lost_vintageThe Lost Vintage * is food and travel writer (Mastering The Art Of French Eating: Lessons in food and love from a year In Paris, 2013) Ann Mah’s hardcover debut. It is informed by the experience of spending a week working in a Champagne vineyard. (See her 2016 article for the New York Times)

With the San Francisco Michelin-starred restaurant closing abruptly, sommelier Kate Elliott was at loose ends. Anxious over her upcoming final try (she failed twice) at the Master of Wine Examination, she returned to the vineyard in Burgundy that has belonged to her mother’s family for generations, intent on bolstering her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages. The domaine is now run by her cousin Nico and his wife Heather, Kate’s UC Berkeley roommate and best friend, who recruited Kate to help clear out the enormous farmhouse cellar. Behind an armoire, Kate discovered a bricked-up cave filled with valuable wine, her great-aunt Helene's diary written during the Nazi Occupation, and eventually, the family’s buried secret.

“(A) charismatic blend of mystery, romance, and post-WWII French history... Mah’s engaging story resonates on many levels and will appeal to readers who enjoy the family sagas of Kate Morton and Kristin Hannah.(Booklist)  In the Author’s Note, Mah suggests A Train In Winter: An extraordinary story of women, friendship, and Resistance In Occupied France for the often forgotten role of French women during the war; and Agnès Humbert’s memoir, Résistance : A woman's journal of struggle and defiance In Occupied France that deeply influenced the character of Helene.

* = Starred review

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The Electric Woman

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 4:29pm by Lucy S

Title page

After her mother had a stroke, Tessa Fontaine felt the need to do something brave with her life. Worried about losing her mom, but inspired by the lively, fearless, pre-stroke woman she remembered, Fontaine left behind her mother and step-father to join a traveling sideshow, one of the last remaining, The World of Wonders. After taking an introductory class in fire eating, Fontaine joined up with the show in Florida and spent a season with them, eating fire, charming snakes, swallowing swords, setting up and taking down the show and meeting and befriending a varied group of “geeks.” She chronicles this incredible journey in The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts. Alternating chapters between memories and stories of her mother before and after her stroke, and life on the road with The World of Wonders, Fontaine delivers an enthralling, moving, unusual coming-of-age type tale that is ultimately a tribute to her radiant, strong mother.

You can learn more about Tessa Fontaine, her sideshow career, and her writing here: Tessa Fontaine

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #674

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 10:00pm by muffy


The Balcony * by Jane Delury,  a novel in 10 interconnected stories (some previously published), is a "breathtaking century-spanning portrait of the inhabitants of a French village, revealing the deception, despair, love, and longing beneath the calm surface of ordinary lives.” ~ Jennifer Egan.

Readers are first introduced to the Léger country estate just outside Paris in 1992, through the eyes of American au pair Brigitte who found herself falling for Hugo, a tortured academic who was about to take up a teaching position at an East Coast college.  The narratives came full circle in the last story when we meet Brigitte’s young charge as an adult. In between, we followed intimately a century of inhabitants of the manor and the servant’s cottages - from a courtesan who threw herself off the titular balcony; a Jewish couple in hiding from the Gestapo; to the village schoolmaster and a hero of the Resistance, who bullied his own family, while bearing witness to layers of family secrets and generations of human drama.

“In this sophisticated and impressive first novel, the author deftly ties together seemingly unrelated stories, ranging back and forth in time, while bringing each of her characters to vivid life.” (Library Journal)

* = Starred review

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Fabulous Fiction Firsts #673

Wed, 06/27/2018 - 11:26am by muffy


The Ensemble * * * by Aja Gabel is an intimate look at the high-stakes, cutthroat world of classical music and what it takes to survive.

The 4 members of the Van Ness String Quartet met as students at the SF Conservatory of Music. They would never have been friends but were imperfectly bound to one another for their love of playing together.  Jana, the first violin is a natural leader, “flinty”and driven; Henry, a viola prodigy, has the making of (and the constant temptation to become) a soloist; Brit, the second violin, quiet and steadfast, suffers from her on-again, off-again relationship with cellist Henry, the oldest of the group - an angry skeptic who sleeps around. Over the next 2 decades, they stayed together in the face of professional temptations, dueling egos, rivalries, injuries, and bad judgment. Along the way, they also managed to become husbands, wives, and parents, and ultimately, a family.

“Like a talented, well-rehearsed quartet, this is the epitome of gestalt and lyricism. Gabel (a former cellist) explores friendship and art with great warmth, humanity, and wisdom. Each of the four parts begins with a selection of chamber music pieces that make a wonderful and fitting aural backdrop.” (Library Journal)

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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Julián is a Mermaid

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 12:40pm by Lucy S

MermaidJulián LOVES mermaids. In her book about him, Jessica Love uses colorful, dramatic illustrations to show us how Julián sees and imagines mermaids in the world around him. While he is swimming with his grandmother, he envisions his own transformation into one of these beautiful, aquatic beings. He tells his grandmother he is a mermaid and then sets off to create a costume worthy of the picture in his mind’s eye. When his grandmother finds him, he fears she will be angry, but instead she offers him the perfect accessory to complete his ensemble. Then she proudly shows-off her spectacular mermaid of a grandson to everyone. Love’s book warmly conveys a message of acceptance and individuality. Enticed by her detailed, vibrant images, readers will celebrate Julián and his loving grandmother.