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The School of Essential Ingredients
The School of Essential Ingredients
by Erica Bauermeister
Edition: Hardcover
117 used & new from $0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lush and Beautiful, February 1, 2009
On Monday nights, Lillian teaches a cooking class at the restaurant. Eight students make their way to class, coming through the side gate and following the golden glow to the kitchen in back, where they will learn to cook from a woman who knows how to inspire her students to create food from the heart and from their memories rather than from a recipe.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different student, alternating between reflections of their past and what is happening in the present, how they found their way to the class and how they get to know the other students. Lillian seems to know just what her students need to learn, and the lessons transform not only their culinary skills but also their lives.

Reminiscent of Garden Spells and Like Water for Chocolate, there is a bit of magical realism to the book- but just a touch- not overdone at all. Bauermeister's vividly detailed descriptions of food leave your mouth watering and put you right into Lillian's kitchen. The writing is richly textured, lush and sensual. It is really quite beautiful. This is a debut novel but felt like it was written by a wise old soul.

My only complaint about this book is that there are no recipes, however that makes sense since Lillian is teaching her students to cook without using recipes. Still, it would be nice to know how to make these dishes- or to know what essential secret ingredient to add to tonight's dinner to make my children behave and my husband pay attention!

If you like good fiction and good food, The School of Essential Ingredients is the perfect combination of the two. I realize I'm gushing here, but I loved the warm little world within these pages, and was sorry to leave it.


Springtime on Mars
Springtime on Mars
by Susan Woodring
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.00
24 used & new from $2.25

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific short story collection!, June 30, 2008
This review is from: Springtime on Mars (Paperback)
Springtime on Mars by Susan Woodring is a short story collection filled with intensely personal domestic situations of quiet desperation. There are 11 stories, set in the 1950's until the present day, loosely connected by recurrent themes of science and technology, marriage and relationships, love and loss.

Charming, deceptively simple, and utterly American, many of these tales depict the country at the brink of change and huge scientific advances. Others show the struggle between faith in God and faith in science. Ranging from the introduction of the television into our living rooms, to the Kennedy assassination, to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, Springtime on Mars holds up a mirror and shows us not only who we were, but who we are.

Woodring breathes life into her characters so quickly- within a few short paragraphs you fully grasp who they are. I was perhaps most touched and completely caught off guard by the story Beautiful, in which a father is staying in a hotel, apart from his family, on an extended business trip. His wife and daughters come down for a visit, but there are huge walls of silence and misunderstanding. He realizes his 13 year old didn't want to make the trip; she seems embarrassed and unsure of how to act around her dad. He then remembers how it used to be:

"When she was little, though, she used to cup his face in her hands and draw it very close to her own. Listen, she would say. There's a crisis on planet Gimbel and we have to go there now. "

Throughout that story, I was rooting for the dad so much. I kept thinking, Do something! You're going to lose your family! The relief I felt when he finally took some action to connect with his kids is hard to describe. I got so choked up and was surprised at how much it affected me.

Susan Woodring has a unique voice and a disarming style. Many short story collections are woefully uneven, but that is not the case here. I found real moments of charm and humor in every single story. I enjoyed this book so much and enthusiastically recommend it.


The Fires
The Fires
by Alan Cheuse
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.74
78 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Death by Fire, May 29, 2008
This review is from: The Fires (Paperback)
The Fires by Alan Cheuse of NPR Radio fame is an intense reading experience comprised of two novellas in which people set fire to something precious. The stories have elements in common- love and memories, misery and grief, loss and transformation- but the characters are very different.

These stories are extremely well crafted and excellently told. I would love to hear them in Cheuse's smooth radio voice. They are compelling, tragic, yet funny at times. I enjoyed the symbolism of fire and words like sacrifice, destruction, purification kept coming to mind while I was reading.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Characters, Vivid Descriptions, Love it!, January 16, 2008
I read this author's blog daily and obsessively.. she has a great style and can really paint a picture with her words (gorgeous photographs, too), so when I learned she had an "Amazon Short", I was very excited to read it. My only issue with it is... it's too short! I want more!

I love little Chloe, with her Cheerios breath. You can tell she's as smart as a whip, much smarter than her mom, Miranda, gives her credit for. She knows her uncle's still "in there" even though mom says he isn't. Miranda's a stress case, still grieving the loss of her own mother after a year. Jack is lonely, missing Hanna (Miranda's mom), the only woman he's ever loved. And then there's Bobby, trapped in his body but fully alive. His mind is going a mile a minute, at times silently yelling at his nurse (the one who talks to him, not at him), or shutting out everything but the sensation of Chloe dragging a pussywillow against his cheek. His thoughts are meandering here and there and all over the place, ping ponging off the inside of his skull. Imagine the frustration..

I like these characters! I want to keep reading!

Lilli Jolgren Day is definitely an author to watch.


Veil of Roses
Veil of Roses
by Laura Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.97
397 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Charming, August 27, 2007
This review is from: Veil of Roses (Paperback)
This is a truly delightful book that I read in 2 days. There were many funny, laugh out loud moments when 27 yr old Tami is brand new to Tucson and is finding her way around and meeting new people. The cultural differences are fascinating and gave me new insight. A really quick, fun read. Highly recommend.


Bel Canto
Bel Canto
by Ann Patchett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.64
435 used & new from $0.01

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gag Me, May 13, 2007
This review is from: Bel Canto (Paperback)
I'm about 200 pages into this book and I am bored to tears. I doubt I will finish it. I'm so sick of hearing how everyone is in love with the opera diva, Roxanne Coss, over and over. Just the sound of her voice mesmerizes everyone, brings people to tears, makes them want to leave their families, etc.etc. Ok, she's pretty, she can sing, does she also have magical powers?? The descriptions of her voice and the effect it has on the listener are so ridiculous and heavy handed. I don't get it. The hostage situation just goes on FOREVER and nothing ever happens. This book just d-r-a-g-s. I don't get the rave reviews for this boring, boring book.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 29, 2007 10:03 PM PDT


Zack Files 29: Just Add Water and....Scream!
Zack Files 29: Just Add Water and....Scream!
by Dan Greenburg
Edition: Paperback
Price: $4.49
81 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book- A Kid's Review, October 18, 2006
I am 7 years old and I'm telling my mom what to write. I love this book. I think it's very funny. I'll recommend it to anybody who likes funny stuff. The best part is when the goo starts growing. I laughed so hard I almost threw up.


The White Wolf (A to Z Mysteries - A Stepping Stone Book(TM))
The White Wolf (A to Z Mysteries - A Stepping Stone Book(TM))
by Ron Roy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $4.52
228 used & new from $0.01

20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Mystery, October 20, 2005
(8 year old reviewer) I really liked this book. It kept me interested until the end. THe best part was when the pups returned to the mother, but I won't tell you how that happens. You will just have to read it!


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