First Books of the Year.

My 6yo is following in my footsteps. This would be an awesome thing (as who can say I’m any less :)) if only I were on the other side of the fence. He has recently discovered the joys of chapter books. Oh, woe me. I know how great it is to find a book you absolutely enjoy reading. I know how easy it is to contract auditory malfunction and amnesia when you’re engrossed in a delectable read. I know how annoying other people get with their constant yapping when all you’re trying to do is become invisible with your book at the last chapter. I was (and to an extent still am) that girl when I’m reading a book I can’t get enough of. So is my son. And now I’m the mom who must call him for dinner when all he wants to do is read. I’m the mom who makes unnecessary plans for grocery excursions when he can’t wait to read what happens next. If I was invisible/inaudible before, I’m surely the devil who won’t leave him alone now. Chapter books have whisked him away even further from me and, alas, I can’t even complain.

What I can do is write about the two books I read first in the new year. One I had picked out before I signed up for the reading challenges and the other one is a from a genre I don’t normally delve into — mystery — but that I enjoyed nonetheless. I think this bodes pretty well for my reading hopes for 2013.

Mystery of Food

Haven by Kay Hooper

The cover says that this novel is part of a crime series by the author but, having read nothing else by the author ever, I found it stood up very well as a standalone. A small North Carolina mountain town has a serial killer on the loose who is murdering lone hikers without anyone noticing their absence. Emma and Jessie Rayburn are two estranged sisters with psychic abilities whose lives are somehow entwined with the killer through a past so dark that neither can move forward without confronting the evil simmering beneath the facade of that sleepy town.

The book was a page turner, no doubt. Although it was hard to suspend disbelief, and thus get fully immersed in the story, the pace of the novel was quick enough to carry me through to the last page. My basic problem with bestsellers (and mass market hits) is that the plot seems contrived and the characters are often so omniscient as to be cliched. This novel fell prey to that malady more than once. Also, and this must be a problem with the genre itself, I cannot wrap my head around how seemingly intelligent FBI-quality standard agents seem to think they can take on an experienced killer all by themselves without any back up. However much the author may try to explain away their folly (she had always been one to go her own way, he never worked with a partner), the fact is if you’re going to go explore a serial killer’s lair by yourself, you WILL die. (Unless, of course, you work in Bollywood ;))

So although this novel won’t exercise your brain too much or appeal to your aesthetic sense like literary fiction will, it’s not a bad read for an airplane journey, say, or a lazy afternoon.

Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant: Confessions on Cooking for One and Dining Alone. Edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler

The editor, Jenni Adler, got her idea for this compilation of food essays by semi celebrities while studying at the University of Michigan and living alone for the first time. After reading this anthology, all I want to do is thank her for this treasure. Although I neither live alone nor usually cook for one, these yummy nuggets of good writing made me want to do both! Who knew that Nora Ephron is as much a fan of potatoes as I am?! Or that people were reluctant to invite MFK Fisher for supper intimidated by her high flying-foodie reputation? Or that Ann Patchett once survived on Saltine crackers alone?

Not only are the essays written to entice, some of the recipes look uber interesting too. I have a mind to try Ben Karlin’s fabulous-sounding salsa rosa some day along with Phoebe Nobles’ lemon-butter asparagus. (Not at the same meal, though.)

If you like reading food memoirs but don’t have time for a whole book, try these short stories. I’m sure they will go just fine with your kid-leftovers dinner at the end of a long day.

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3 thoughts on “First Books of the Year.

  1. I’m going to the library tomorrow, and see that ‘alone in the kitchen’ is on the shelves… I’ll be checking it out! Thanks!

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