A foster child for all of her life, eighteen-year-old Victoria is emancipated from the system with few social skills and a bad attitude. Now all on her own, Victoria can’t help thinking about Elizabeth, the loving woman who once wanted to adopt her – who took her in and taught her the beautiful language of flowers. After a heartbreaking chain of events separates them, Victoria copes by focusing on flowers, and using them to communicate her pain, until a chance encounter brings her face-to-face with her past – challenging her to move forward as she bitterly clings to the past. This beautifully written novel leaves the reader haunted by Victoria’s choices, but hopeful for the second chance she deserves. After taking this journey with her, you won’t look at a yellow rose or a cherry blossom in the same way, and you’ll find yourself thinking about the characters, again and again, wishing them well as if they were old friends.
Favorite Quote: “Anyone can grow into something beautiful.”
As a young girl, Lillian learned that by combining certain ingredients in the kitchen she could make a connection with her wounded and withdrawn mother. As an adult, Lillian uses this gift to run a first-class restaurant as well as a weekly cooking class. On Monday evenings, students are allowed to conquer their fears in the kitchen as well as create delicious, simple food. In doing so, each of them discovers what “essential ingredients” will not only improve their culinary skills, but also bring flavor to their lives. Told in a series of vignettes, readers will step into the personal struggles of each character and delight in the way stirring, slicing, smelling and tasting can inspire friendship and renewal. This tender novel will seduce your senses and inspire you to create loving menus with enticing ingredients. More importantly, through its tender glimpses into challenges of each character, it will encourage you to embrace your own abundance of small pleasures. With captivating language and believable characters, this insightful novel will leave you as satisfied as a delicious meal.
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes, niña, our greatest gifts grow from what we are not given.”
If you’re looking for a great book to start off the year, here’s your next check-out or download! I recently finished this gem of a novel that incorporates history, love, mystery and a whopping twist at the end to keep you turning the pages. As Sydney reaches the end of her long, eventful life, she chooses to tell her son, Teddy, the secret of her trip to Berlin to swim in the Olympics. Almost by accident, she discovers the incredible talent she possesses for swimming as a sixteen year old girl mourning the death of her beloved father. As she follows her bliss, she finds herself crossing the ocean and wrapped-up in a whirlwind romance with a handsome German. This is a turbulent time in world history, and the implications of this love affair shape the rest of her life…as well as history. I know you will love this book as much as I did. It’s a perfect book to while away a long January afternoon. Don’t forget your blanket and tea!
Favorite Quote: “A natural. Is there anything better anybody can tell you but that you’re a natural? I don’t think so.”
I just finished reading a book that has left me transported, moved and hesitant to start a new book because I don’t want to break the spell I’m under! Have you ever read a book at exactly the right time in you life? Well, that’s how I felt when I started this magnificent novel. This book is about so many important things…. family relationships, loyalty, overcoming gri ef, and especially the important connections we form with our pets. Having just said good-bye to our beloved seventeen year old Aussie, and adopting a puppy really connected me to this book in a meaningful way. Unable to speak from birth, Edgar is a special boy who has found a way to feel completely normal helping his family raise and train the unique breed of dogs that they sell. When tragedy strikes their family, Edgar must rely on his keen instincts, as well as his unshakable bond with his dogs, to seek the truth and find his own way in the world.
Favorite quote: “So much of the world was governed by chance… Life was a swarm of accidents waiting in the treetops, descending upon any living thing that passed… You swam in a river of chance and coincidence. You clung to the happiest accidents– the rest you let float by.”
My book club just finished reading Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. In a nutshell, it was a hit. Sometimes we read a book, talk about it for five minutes, and then get sidetracked into other conversation. However, this book had us talking. This story of a young girl and her mother coming to the United States from China to seek a better life, is thought-provoking in the irony of what they actually encounter. I don’t come from a part of the country that encounters many immigrants, nor do we see the kind of poverty that large cities do, so the conditions that this young girl faces are shocking. So, you probably realize that Kim is not coming to the America she and her mother envision. They endure hardship beyond measure, and one cannot help but be slightly remorseful for the luxuries we take for granted each day. However, the story runs its course in a way that makes the reader realize that the American dream still exists for Kim, in that she eventually overcomes the oppression of her youth, takes advantage of the kindness of good people, and uses her natural talents to ultimately shine. This is a quick read, but it will open your eyes and make you wonder why you ever complain about anything in your comfortable little life.
Favorite Quote: “I was born with a talent. Not for dance, or comedy, or anything so delightful. I’ve always had a knack for school.”
I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The air of “vacation” is still in the air. I”m still delighting on left-overs and cookies. I don’t feel guilty about an extra cup of coffee in the morning, or staying in my pajamas a little while longer. Ahhhhh….. I love the “In-Between” week. If you’re looking for the perfect book for a week such as this…. I highly recommend a personal favorite The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. It’s the perfect book for snuggling up by the Christmas tree. It will have you reading into the night to see how all of the strands will come together with the perfect mix of drama, mystery, family-saga, and just a touch of romance. The first World War is looming, and a little girl is found abandoned on a ship to Australia. All she carries with her is a suitcase and a book of fairy tales. Jump a generation and a continent, and meet Cassandra, a woman who has suffered terrible tragedy in her life and more recently the loss of her beloved grandmother, Nell. When Cassandra sets off to fulfill Nell’s dying request, she learns that her family history is more complex than she ever knew and that to unwrap all of the secrets, she will have to open up more than she ever thought she could.
Favorite Quote: “…She’s understood the power of stories. Their magical ability to refill the wounded part of people.”
Okay, is your book club like mine, and ready to try something unique, different, and not the typical “chick-lit?” Look no further than True Grit by Charles Portis. Mattie Ross has to be one of the spunkiest, well-spoken and utterly fearless heroines in literature. Another bonus of this book is that it’s relatively “tame” when it comes to content and language, and when you’re done, the feeling is that you’ve read something of a classic filled with good old-fashioned Americana. You would be surprised at how many people read this book when it was published in 1967 and describe it as one of their all-time favorites. Get your book club to think outside the box and choose this book for its next read. You will have tons of fun talking about Mattie and her unbelievable sense of justice, as well as Rooster and how completely un-refined, yet compulsively likeable, he is. If you are a structured book club who follows a more rigid discussion format, there are lots of online discussion lists for this book. One question to ask each guest: “When in your life did you have to display, “True Grit?” If you’re like my book club, you let the talking happen, and enjoy the food!
Favorite Quote: “There is no knowing what is in a man’s heart.”
I love reviewing all kinds of books: craft books, how-to books, memoirs, fiction, non-fiction, you name it! Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt falls into a category that my “people” seem to appreciate. You know, that warm, fuzzy, feel-good kind of book that’s full of ups and downs but laced with quirky characters, life lessons and a dollop of sweetness. Picture Steel Magnolias meets The Help mingled with The Secret Life of Bees.) Cee Cee Honeycutt is a young adolescent girl, wise beyond her years, who moves to Savannah to live with an aunt she has never met. There she meets a host of diverse women who teach her about love and friendship, ultimately helping her heal from the trauma of losing her mother and father. This book will make you laugh; it will make you weep, and it will make you want to give a copy to your best friend.
Favorite Quote: “My first impression was that pies seemed to help people be kind to one another…”
Book Reviews for Amy Powers’ Inspired Ideas (Online Magazine)