Annie's Quick Picks
"The Bolter" by Frances Osborne (Vintage, May 2010, $15.95) "The Doctor and the Diva" by Adrienne McDonnell (Pamela Dorman Books, Viking, July 2010 $26.95)
Although I have not yet read "The Bolter" it is on top of my bedside pile. This is the story of Idina Sackville who was a bolter, women who in the 1920s and 1930s broke the rules and fled their marriages for faraway lands such as Kenya. Who wouldn't want to read about the chief seductress of Kenya's scandalous "Happy Valley set"? Can't wait!
From the enticing cover to the last page, Adrienne McDonnell's "The Doctor and the Diva" is a luscious and sensual debut novel. Erika van Kessler is an aspiring opera diva who is caught between her passions of opera, motherhood and love. Set in foggy Boston, the lush tropical island of Trinidad and opera rich Italy, how could the reader not get immersed in this lushly written libretto? One can actually hear the diva sing through the fluttering curtains onto the streets of Venice or into the hummingbird and orchid rich gardens of Trinidad.
"Castaways" by Elin Hilderbrand (Hachette, June 2010 $14.99)
Now in paperback, Hilderbrand's "Castaways" is another great read from this Nantucket author. Set on Nantucket, "Castaways" is filled with intimate details of summer life on Nantucket with Greg and Tess McAvoy who set out on their sailboat to celebrate their wedding anniversary in hopes of easing the strains on the marriage. In a sailing accident the McAvoys drown leaving their two young children orphans and their close friends devastated and wondering. No one is really quite sure what happened to Tess and Greg that day on the sailboat and this question nags at everyone throughout the course of the summer. "Castaways" is another page-turning story and beloved novel of Hilderbrands. You won't be disappointed!
"I Hate to Cook Book" by Peg Bracken (Grand Central Publishing, July 2010, $22.99)
Remember the original "I Hate to Cook Book" that came out fifty years ago and changed women's lives forever? This is the updated and revised edition with a forward by Peg's daughter, Jo Bracken and illustrations by Hilary Knight. The original "I Hate to Cook Book" was born when women found they were happier sipping martinis with their husbands when they came home than slaving over a hot stove. Here you have "Stayabed Stew" that can stay in the oven while you nap, and "Something Else to do with New Potatoes Besides Boiling Them and Rolling Them in Melted Butter and Parsley" and a use for leftover Sunday roast beef called "Hushkabobs" so no one knows you are using that roast beef again! Bracken's classic is a delight and fun read for your kitchen bookshelf. "Eternal on the Water" by Joseph Monninger (Gallery Books, February 2010, $15.00) I loved this novel by Joseph Monninger. As the New York Times Book Review said "A beautiful and searching exploration of the meaning of commitment and the majesty of nature, told in the strong, clear voice of a true believer." Cobb and Mary meet while kayaking on the Allagash River in Maine and fall deeply in love with one another. They both approach life with a sense of adventure and love of nature. When an inherited disease manifests itself in Mary, their perfect love falls beneath the shadow of a fatal illness and reminds us to live life to the fullest each day or as Mary's mother says, "say yes to the good things in life and grab them!" Monninger, an avid fly fisherman and lover of rivers, write a compassionate and touching love story. And keep on your calendar Wednesday, August 18th when Joseph will be here at Bank Square Books for a signing and discussion of "Eternal on the Water" at 6:30pm.
"Promises to Keep" by Jane Green (Viking, July 2010 $24.95) "One Day" by David Nicholls (Vintage, June 2010 $14.95) "The Blind Contessa's New Machine" by Carey Wallace (Pamela Dorman Books, Viking, July 2010, $23.95)
Interspersed throughout this classic and fun Jane Green novel are delicious recipes. I have made the Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry over and over again and it always delight. "Promises to Keep" is a heartwarming and heart wrenching novel of love, loss and facing hard choices. Callie is the older sister to Steffi who everyone feels has never grown up although she runs a frightfully successful vegetarian restaurant and she loves every second. Callie is a successful photographer with a workaholic husband who loves her dearly and they have two wonderful kids, Eliza and Jack. Callie and Steffi's parents, Walter and Honor have been divorced for over 30 years and rarely speak. Lila is Callie's best friend and confidant who has finally fallen head over heels for Ed who is divorced from a nightmare of a former wife. Life begins to unravel when Callie's breast cancer returns with a vengeance, affecting everyone in her life, especially her close family. Green writes with candor and warmth and brings the reader into the heart of every character. This is a book to take to the beach at the end of this summer but be sure to bring a few tissues.
A paperback original, "One Day" is a story of two people, Emma and Dexter, who meet for the first time on July 15, 1988 at their graduation, only to go their separate ways the next day. For the next twenty years, on July 15 they wonder about each other and that fateful day and what their life would be if they were together for real. Two mismatched people who do finally find themselves madly in love with one another, only to have it all come to a crashing halt. Soon to be a major motion picture in the United States, "One Day" is a smart, yet unbearably sad love story. Don't miss this! Read it before the movie comes out.
I read "The Blind Contessa's New Machine" in a few hours and absolutely loved this novella set in Italy during the 1800's. The young contessa Carolina is going blind and neither her family nor her much sought after fiancé believe her. Only her best friend and eccentric inventor Turri helps her by inventing a typewriter so she can write letters, inducing a lightning bolt effect love affair between the two of them. Carolina's dark world turns to her vivid and real dreams, and to the passionate love of Turri. I couldn't recommend this novel highly enough!"Matterhorn" by Karl Marlantes (Grove Atlantic, March 2010, $24.95)
I needed a two week vacation on an island to be able to pick up and read without stopping this 566 page riveting novel about the Vietnam War. Marlantes writes a dialogue in "Matterhorn" that is unforgettable and authentic, talking about leeches, the jungle, racism, death, power, and of course, war. Never have a read an account of the Vietnam War or any other war that is so vivid, so real and so tragic. By the end of the 566 pages you feel like you know these men and have lived with them through the battle of Matterhorn, with their losses and triumphs. This is a must read for men and women alike. You will not be able to put it down.
Annie Philbrick is co-owner of Bank Square Books, 53 West Main St., Mystic.