The Summer Edit: Books, Food, Drinks and Fun

Summer’s here. And I couldn’t be happier. Well, maybe I could. I most definitely could if I were at St. George Island. With a good book in one hand, a fun drink in the other and my family nearby.

To celebrate the season, I’m going to put together my own summer edit with books, drinks, foods (including easy-to-make dinners) and even a DIY or two. I’ll be adding to it over the next month or two as I see new things to share, so please stop back by.

I’ll start with my recommended summer reads. Really, there’s something here for everyone. Fiction. Nonfiction. Short stories. Even fantasy. Some of my picks are brand new. Others have been around long enough to be beach-perfect paperbacks. Several of them are written in ways that are nearly as interesting as the stories themselves. All are worth your time.

Summer Reads

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize, and it remains one of my all-time favorite reads. It’s about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is another Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Katherine Boo has made real-life reporting read like a novel. The book is set in the slums of Mumbai. With India prospering, the residents of Annawadi are hoping to find their way out of poverty. They all have different ideas about how to do that.

George Saunders‘s historical fiction about the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son, Willie … and the aftermath is unlike any other book I’ve ever read. Lincoln in the Bardo is a tale peopled with historical characters and others who are entirely made up. It takes place in the world we know and one that’s imaginatively unrecognizable.

The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz is a true story of 1920s New Orleans,  an eccentric woman and French Quarter brothels.  The author drew from interviews and Norma Wallace’s own unpublished memoirs.

Summer-ready short stories in Florida–from Lauren Groff, the New York Times bestselling author of Fates and Furiesoffers characters who face down snakes and sinkholes, hurricanes and humidity… and their own self-destructive behavior.

Going abroad? Pack A Bite-Sized History of France. A history lesson has never been so deliciously fun. The authors, Stephane Henaut and Jeni Mitchell, use food and wine as a way to trace French history from ancient times through today.

Fly Girls will land on bookstore shelves in August. In the tradition of Hidden Figures and The Girls of Atomic City, these are stories about amazing women … specifically Amelia Earhart and other female pilots (one from Alabama) who fought to fly.

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon comes out in July, and it couldn’t be timelier. It’s a powerful and dark novel about violence, love, faith and loss. A young Korean American woman at an elite American university is drawn into acts of domestic terrorism by a cult tied to North Korea.

Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades. But when her family falls apart, Ava sets out on a mission through the swamps to save them all. Karen Russell has written a deeply moving coming-of-age story with characters you’ll not soon forget.

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles is about a paralyzed young man’s sudden and unexplainable recovery is an exploration of faith and science. And in this age of instant celebrity, it’s also about the meaning of life and humanity.

Orange Is the New Black meets Gone Girl in this twisty psychological thriller set in a women’s prison. Debra Jo Immergut has written a real page-turner with The Captives.

From the author of The English Patient, this new novel by Michael Ondaatje is set in the decade after World War II. Warlight tells the story of a small group of eccentric and mysterious characters and two teenagers whose lives are forever changed just by knowing them.

Coming Through Slaughter is the story of Buddy Bolden, the first of the great trumpet players–some say the originator of jazz. The novel is a fictionalized version of Bolden’s life, covering the last months of his sanity in 1907, as his music becomes more radical and his behavior more erratic.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.

Summer-Perfect Drink

I like my summer drinks to be light and often pink. Rosé is my summer wine of choice. But I do love a Juliet and Romeo cocktail. Here’s the recipe from Bon Appetit.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 slices cucumber
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 sprig mint, 1 leaf reserved for garnish
  • 2  ounces Plymouth gin 
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 3 drops rose water, for garnish
  • 3 drops Angostura bitters, for garnish

PREPARATION
Put cucumber slices and salt in a glass or a tin, and muddle.  Add mint sprig, gin, lime juice, simple syrup, and ice, and shake. Strain into a coupe without ice. Garnish with a mint leaf and the drops of bitters and rose water.

To me, though, nothing says summer (and nothing could be easier) than sweet vermouth on the rocks (or with a splash of club soda if you want to make a lazy afternoon of it). Vermouth originally was used as a medicinal tonic, with spices and botanicals like wormwood (the German “wermut” inspired the name). It’s wine that is aromatized (infused with botanicals) and fortified (spiked with unaged brandy). In the summertime, I really like Cocchi Vermouth di Tornio, from the heart of Italy’s Moscato wine region. They’ve been making vermouth since 1891 and hold a geographically protected AOC designation. Breathe it in, and you’ll you’ll get orange peel and maybe a little chocolate. You’ll taste that, too, along with some sweet raisins and a hint of cinnamon. It’s beautifully bitter on the finish. I also like the vanilla-scented Carpano Antica Formula (invented in 1786). These vermouths have a limited shelf life, so I keep them in the fridge.DIY

A good friend of mine spent her birthday with her daughter making something amazing. They went to Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery and took a hypertufa class. I’m signed up for one next month with my Birmingham Les Dames d’Escoffier friends. Then we’re going next door to Ovenbird for drinks and light bites.

The folks at Charlie Thigpen’s say, “hypertufa planters are lightweight rustic pots made from Portland cement, peat moss and vermiculite. This combination makes the containers lightweight and porous and favorable for plant growth. They resemble stone and gain beauty with age attracting lichens and mosses.” My friend says it’s lots of fun.

Here’s what you need to know:

DETAILS

  • Cost is $55 (includes all materials except plants).
  • Class lasts about 1.5 hours and starts at 6:15 p.m.
  • Wear clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty
  • Each class is limited to 12 participants
  • Reservations must be made in advance, either by signing up online or by calling (205) 328-1000. Payment will be taken at time of reservation.
  • If you must cancel or reschedule, refunds in the form of store credit will be given for cancellations made at least 48 hours prior to class.

LOCATION

Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery
2805 2nd Avenue South. Birmingham, AL 35233 (Entrance to the parking lot is on 28th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Ave S.)

There are classes scheduled for June 28, July 26 (August is sold out already), October 18 and September 27. These classes sell out quickly, so book yours right now.

If you can’t get in at Charlie Thigpen’s, Lowe’s has some instructions here to do it yourself at home.

 

Summer Sweets

Peaches are among the summer’s truest and best pleasures, and those from Chilton County, in my opinion, are better than all others.

I made this Peach and Blackberry Cobbler with Crystalized Ginger from Bon Appetit for my husband for Father’s Day, and it was a hit. The biscuits are just delicious and look so pretty. And it really doesn’t take much time. If you don’t have time to boil an egg (or just don’t want to), you can get a couple in the to-go section of your local Piggly Wiggly.

 

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler with Crystalized Ginger

INGREDIENTS

Biscuits

  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2t tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 hard-boiled egg yolk, finely grated on Microplane or small holes of box grater
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2/3t cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream

Fruit Mixture

  • 2 pounds peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
  • 1 1/2-pint container fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream

PREPARATION

For Biscuits

Place flour, crystallized ginger, sugar, baking powder, grated egg yolk, salt and ground ginger in processor; blend to combine. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup cream and process just until moist clumps begin to form. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead briefly just until dough comes together, about 4 turns. Divide dough into 8 equal portions. Shape each into 2-inch ball; flatten each to 3/4-inch thickness. DO AHEAD Biscuits can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

For Fruit Mixture

Combine peaches and blackberries with sugar, crystallized ginger, cornstarch and ground ginger in large bowl; toss to coat. Let stand until juices begin to form, tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350ºF. Butter 2-quart baking dish or 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Transfer fruit mixture to prepared dish. Place biscuits atop fruit mixture, spacing slightly apart. Brush biscuits with remaining 1 tablespoon cream; sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake cobbler until fruit mixture is bubbling thickly and biscuits are light golden, about 50 minutes. Cool cobbler 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

 

 

Fox 6 Books: May

Real and unreal. Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on May 1. There’s a brand new memoir/cookbook from Rick Bragg and a great guide to being a confident girl. Then things take a different turn with an educational book of folklore and a smart, twisty mystery.

The Best Cook in the World:  Tales from My Momma’s Table (Knopf) Rick Bragg, the beloved and bestselling author of All Over but the Shoutin’ is back with a new book in a familiar setting. This one is part food memoir, part cookbook but, overall and especially, a loving tribute to his mom.  Readers will find more than 30 chapters, with delightful enigma-like titles like “Salt is Good,” “A Ham Hock Don’t Call for Help,” “Till it Thunders,” “Ribs in the Dead of Night” and “Untimely Figs.” Each section showcases a region and its food and its people with stories that will stay with you and recipes you’ll probably want to make. Because this is Rick Bragg, the stories are amazing, and you’ll know the remarkable people in them before this is all over. The recipes shine, too, with dishes like Wild Plum Pie, Fried Chicken (and Fried Chicken Gravy also known as “Water Gravy”), Real Biscuits, Vegetable Soup in a Short Rib Base, Fresh Fried Crappie with Hush Puppies and Tartar Sauce, Ham and Redeye Gravy over Fresh Diced Tomato. I’m not so sure about Baked Possum and Sweet Potatoes or Pan-Roasted Pigs Feet (even with a homemade barbecue sauce). The instructions are straightforward (to a point). The recipe lists exactly what you will need. Perfect Fried Eggs call for lard,  eggs and luck. “How to cook it” is where this book really gets interesting. The directions become a conversation that meanders here and there and ultimately ends up with some tasty food on the table. It’s like standing in the kitchen and visiting and cooking alongside a traditional Southern cook like Bragg’s mother or my own grandmother—women who did farm-to-table long before it was a thing, women who measured in smidgens and dabs or, my favorite, “just some,” women who sustained those they loved with much more than the food they put on the table.

The Confidence Code for Girls (Harper) The authors of The Confidence Code, a bestselling book aimed at helping women of all ages at all stages of their careers have the self-assurance to achieve their goals, are back. This time, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman have written a book just for girls because this is how it starts. “Confidence,” they say, “gives you the power, the lift, the oomph to be yourself and do what you want—even when it’s scary.” Talk to an intimidating teacher? Check. Start a new club? Check. Join a basketball team, try out for a play and compete with boys in the classroom? Check, check, check. The book is cleverly written with graphic novel strips, fun lists and quizzes. Those, along with the stories from real girls and the authors’ wise advice, will leave a lasting impression and teach a lot of valuable lessons. Research shows that the tween and teen years are the best times for confidence creation. The idea with this book, written especially for girls ages 8 to 12,  is to give these young women useful and practical tools to live bolder, braver and more confident lives—starting really, really early. Check!

Hairy, Scary, but Mostly Merry Fairies (NewSouth BooksThe subtitle of Renee Simmons Raney‘s book—Curing Nature Deficiency through Folklore, Imagination, and Creative Activities—is a bit more serious than the title. That’s because connecting children with the natural world around them is increasingly more important and harder to do. Whether it’s a park, a farm, a forest or even a backyard, Raney believes every child deserves his or her own personal landscape. That’s where children can seek (and find) adventure and cultivate creativity, she says. This book, with charming illustrations by Carolyn Walker Crowe, combines fairy stories and folklore with hands-on, nature-related activities. Children learn about diverse habitats, creatures (supernatural and otherwise) and changing seasons while becoming more confident in exploring the wild outdoors. Raney is the director of the Conservation Education Institute of the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. Fans all over the U.S. (and even worldwide) have enjoyed her environmental education programs, storytelling and fairy workshops. She includes in this little book a guide for educators that incorporates writing, math, art and science. You’ll even learn how to build a proper fairy house.

I Let You Go (BerkleyI do I love a twisty novel! I Let You Go is exactly that. And it’s set along the coast—the cliffs and beaches—of Wales. In this mystery thriller by Clare Mackintosh, Jenna Gray is running—from her old life, from a tragic car accident and from the loss of her child. The remote Welsh coast seems far enough away from all that, but she soon finds it is not. Meanwhile, back in Bristol, detectives are scrambling to finally solve a frustrating hit-and-run case where the leads have often led to nothing. As Jenna finally finds the courage to move on from her painful past, and even hesitantly pursue a relationship, she soon realizes that it’s impossible to free herself entirely from her old life.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.

Fox 6 Books: April

Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on April 3. Let them inspire you to get out and enjoy the sights–natural and otherwise. Or just relax inside with a work of Southern literature or a page-turning (based-on-a-true-story) mystery.

Listen to the Land (PMT Publishing)  Mountain Brook resident Louise Wrinkle has lived most of her long life on the property she has cultivated for more than 30 years. She knows every inch of her expansive, natural garden set in an unspoiled Alabama woodland, and it’s impressive enough that professional horticulturists, plant enthusiasts and backyard gardeners all over the country know it, too. They’ll know it even more intimately through Wrinkle’s book, Listen to the Land. The book shows how Wrinkle took exactly what nature gave her and created a woodland garden that follows and honors the rough terrain and idiosyncratic character of her land with winding paths, a meandering brook, ages-old stone walls, and rustic rail fences and bridges. The book is full of stunning photographs, and the prose is absolutely beautiful.  We see Wrinkle’s garden in all seasons— a Japanese maple in golden leaf and with bare branches, a forest full of cloud-like native dogwoods, yellow Lady Banks’s rose as groundcover and even flower-shaped fungus sprouting from leaf litter. On a practical note, there are more than 200 plant profiles at the back of the book with tips on habitat and placement.

Hurricane Season (Thomas Nelson)  Birmingham writer Lauren Denton follows up her bestselling debut novel, The Hideway, with more lovely Southern storytelling. Sisters Betsy and Jenna are following two entirely different paths in life. Betsy and her husband, Ty, own a dairy farm in south Alabama. They are a family of two since Betsy never realized her dream of motherhood. Free-spirited Jenna is a gifted photographer and single mother of two girls. When Jenna has the opportunity to attend a life-changing artists’ retreat, she drops her girls off with her sister for “just two weeks.” Those couple weeks stretch into most of the summer, and Betsy and Ty adjust to a new life with the little girls and realize it suits them. As Jenna finally is finding the time to focus on her passion and gifts, hurricane season is ramping up on the Alabama coast. When Hurricane Ingrid takes aim at Franklin Dairy Farm, important decisions must be made, and those decisions will forever change these two families.

Love and Death in the Sunshine State:  The Story of a Crime (Algonquin Books This literary nonfiction book, by Cutter Wood, is a combination of memoir and good, old-fashioned reporting. In 2008, Sabine Musil-Buehler, the owner of a motel on Santa Maria Island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, was murdered. Wood, newly graduated from college and at loose ends, was a guest at the motel a few months before it was set on fire and Sabine went missing. He returns to Anna Maria Island and begins to investigate the murder himself. He first approaches this like a true-crime story—presenting the facts and persons of interest:  the victim’s husband, her boyfriend and the man who stole her car after she was killed. But then the narrative veers away from mere facts and into an exploration of how a romantic relationship can take such a terrible turn. Cutter writes, “I felt I had to learn how a relationship can spin to pieces in such a dramatic and fatal fashion … the book is an attempt, via narrative, to understand the impulse to hurt, or even destroy, the ones we love.”

Alabama Impressions (Farcountry Press)  There is very little writing in this book of amazing photographs by Robert P. Falls, Jr. Instead, he lets the beauty of our great state—from the mountains up north to the shoreline down south—speak for itself. And it has lots of say. In addition to many beautiful photos of our natural world, Falls also shows images of iconic manmade things like Birmingham’s skyline glowing at night, the Pathfinder orbiter at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, historic Rickwood Field, Clanton’s peach-shaped water tower and the boll weevil monument in Enterprise. Let this book inspire you to get out and explore all the awesome sights our state has to offer. Falls is a professional wildlife, nature and travel photographer whose work has been published by National Geographic Books, National Wildlife Federation and the National Audubon Society. The National Park Service features his images in two park locations, and the U.S. Postal Service has used one of his photos on a postage stamp.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.

Fox 6 Books: March

Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on March 6. These works of fiction, thrilling, engaging and informative, will help you make the most of spring break—at home or away.

Sunday Silence (Morrow PaperbacksNicci French is actually a wife-and-husband writing team—Nicci Gerrard and Sean French—and they’ve sold millions of books all over the world. This one, with a lavishly descriptive London backdrop (think Sherlock), has a police-consultant psychologist as the protagonist. Frieda Klein has found a body under the floorboards of her house. When the corpse turns out to be someone Klein knows, she becomes a person of interest to the police. But Klein has other things to worry about—she’s being threatened by a notorious serial killer named Dan Reeve whom everyone thought was dead. As family and friends are targeted, Klein begins to believe that it’s not Reeve who’s stalking her after all but a copycat killer inspired—and encouraged—by him. This is a smart psychological thriller with plenty of page-turning twists. Also, it’s available in paperback so it’s spring-break-beach-trip ready.

Future Home of the Living God (HarperNational Book Award-winning Louise Erdrich has been one of America’s best writers for decades. In this New York Times Notable Book for 2017, she tells a tale that is immediately relevant in a lot of ways—good and troubling. In this dystopian thriller, evolution suddenly has stopped and pregnant women quickly become pawns in a war between government, corporate, and religious factions. Cedar, 26 years old and pregnant with her first child, is the adopted daughter of idealistic Minneapolis liberals. When she and her baby are targeted, she seeks refuge with her biological Ojibwe family. As normal society disintegrates and the future becomes more uncertain, Cedar’s own life changes in ways she never imagined. This novel is smart and dark and, at times, darkly funny. It’s fiction, but parts of this book will feel unsettlingly real.

Elmet (WorkmanThis book by Fiona Mozley was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize, and those picks are always winners. Also, it collected accolades from such diverse sources as The Guardian, Amazon, IndieBound, and People magazine. Not bad for a debut novel, which has just been published in paperback for American readers. This coming-of-age story with a fairy-tale feel is set in beautiful, rural Yorkshire. Teenagers Cathy and Daniel and their father are living life off the grid in modern Britain. Cathy and Daniel spend days roaming the ancient woods, occasionally visiting a local woman for some tutoring. Their father, a gentle man who nonetheless is capable of violence, provides for them, building their little home, hunting for their meals. Their existence in the forest—embracing the beauty and the challenges of self-sufficiency—is peaceful until they clash with a local, wealthy landowner. The story, ultimately, is about class differences and family loyalty and humanity’s capacity for good and evil. This one will stay with you for a while.

White Truffles in Winter (NortonAuguste Escoffier (1846-1935) was the preeminent French chef of the early 20th century. Called the “king of chefs and the chef of kings” by the press, he had a huge influence on how we cook and eat today. He codified the recipes for the five “mother sauces,” and his Le Guide Culinaire is still used today as both a cookbook and a text book on cooking techniques. His approach to kitchen management was revolutionary. He was the first to use a brigade—with various chefs and cooks playing their own roles in the assembly of a dish. In his kitchen, shouting was not allowed, and the staff often communicated in whispers. This book of historical fiction by N.M. Kelby takes readers into Escoffier’s kitchens as well as into the Paris salons and studios of painters like Monet and Degas. The heart of the book, though, is about Escoffier’s private life and his love for two very different women—his wife, the poet Delphine Daffis, and the beautiful and mercurial actress Sarah Bernhardt. The descriptions of food here are beyond delicious.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.

Fox 6 Books: February

Here are the books I brought to WBRC Fox 6 on February 6. Memoir and mystery and lots of entertainment!

Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White (University of Alabama Press) There’s so much to love about this young adult book by Alabama writer Lila Quintero Weaver! First of all, it’s a beautifully drawn, visually powerful graphic novel. Also, it’s set in our state’s historic Black Belt region—Marion, to be exact. And it’s a thoughtful, touching story of race and family and immigration and Alabama’s past, present, and future. The story is told by a young woman who came from Argentina to Marion. Her Latino family will witness the intense and dangerous struggles for civil rights in our state, even as they are trying to make their own home here. And Lila, as a Latina, will struggle with her own place in a town that draws strict lines between black and white.

The Queen of Hearts (Berkley) This book by Kimmery Martin will go on sale February 13, and it’s worth reserving now. This debut novel about friendship and secrets is set against an exciting and chaotic backdrop of hospitals and trauma rooms and life-or-death decisions. Zadie Anson is a pediatric cardiologist. Emma Colley is a trauma surgeon. The two have been friends since medical school. They both lead hectic, yet successful and fulfilling, personal and professional lives in Charlotte, NC—until a colleague returns and exposes a secret one of the women has been hiding for years.


The Perfect Scout:  A Soldier’s Memoir of the Great March to the Sea and the Campaign of the Carolinas
 (University of Alabama Press) This book, by George W. Quimby with editing assistance by Anne Sarah Rubin and Stephen Murphy, grew from a large collection of personal papers written by a Union soldier who was a scout for General William Tecumseh Sherman. After his father-in-law, George Quimby, died, Stephen Murphy found his written recollections of his time in the war, and he shares them in this book. Before he joined Sherman’s army in Vicksburg, Quimby was held captive by Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops in Western Tennessee. Once in Sherman’s army, Quimby became a scout, moving ahead of the troops to anticipate opportunities and danger, venturing into Confederate territory, and sending intelligence back to Sherman. The memoir, written in 1901, is an engaging story of narrow escapes, the suffering of civilians caught in between armies, historic events, drunken frolics, and acts of kindness from many Southerners. It reads like an adventure novel.

Shadow of the Lions (Algonquin BooksChristopher Swann‘s debut novel, a literary mystery, will remind readers of A Separate Peace, Dead Poets Society, and The Secret History. During his senior year at the Blackburne School, a prestigious boys’ boarding school in Virginia, Matthias Glass’s roommate and best friend, Fritz Davenport, disappeared without a trace after the two boys argued. Years later—struggling with writing and with life—Matthias is offered a job at Blackburne as an English teacher. He returns to the school and, once again on campus, is draw quickly into the past as he tries to find out exactly what happened to Fritz all those years ago.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about, but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.

Fox 6 Books: January

Here are the books I featured on WBRC Fox 6‘s Good Day Alabama on January 2.

MissingThe_PBThe Missing (William MorrowIn this twisty thriller by C.L Taylormade highly intriguing by an unreliable narrator, a teenager goes missing from a family with lots of damaging secrets. The story is told from the perspective of Claire Wilkinson, who is sure that her missing 15-year-old son, Billy, is still alive somewhere. Each member of Billy’s family feels guilty in some way for his disappearance, but are they really to blame?

 

 

 

 

Book Cover Updated (1)White Girl in Yoga Pants: Stories of Yoga, Feminism, & Inner Strength (self published)  Melissa Scott’s series of smart, authentic essays are mostly about yoga but really about much more—body image, social media, the beauty of being strong, racism, violence against women, friendships, diversity, and the current political climate. Scott understands firsthand how yoga can change lives and bring people together.

 

 

 

 

The Rules of MagicRules-of-Magic.jpg (Simon & Schuster) Alice Hoffman’s millions of fans are pretty happy right now. Her highly anticipated newest book is the prequel to her 1995 bestseller, Practical Magic (which was made into a movie starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman). Readers of that book will remember that the Owens family’s troubles began in 1620 when Maria Owens was charged with witchcraft. Now, hundreds of years later, her descendants struggle with a curse against anyone who falls in love with a member of the family.

 

 

 

9781101911532The Stranger in the Woods (KnopfThe subtitle of Michael L. Finkel‘s book is The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, and this book combines science, travel, and psychology in a strange, personal story like none other. In 1983, a smart, shy young man named Christopher Knight left his family’s home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the woods. For 27 years, he lived in a tent (even through the incredibly harsh winters) figuring out ingenious ways to stay alive.

 

 

 

 

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.

 

Recent Reads: Five-Carat Soul

Five-Carat Soul (Riverhead Books) by James McBride was one of President Obama’s favorite books from 2017. I enjoyed it, too, and included it in my book recommendations on WBRC Fox 6 in December.

This is the first new fiction from McBride since his National Book Award-winning historical novel, The Good Lord Bird, which was about John Brown’s unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry.

Five-Carat Soul is a collection of never-before-published short stories about race and identity and history and understanding. Fans will recognize McBride’s insightful, humorous style and his ability to create remarkably lifelike characters.

These stories are all over the place. Consider the antiques dealer who discovers a legendary toy commissioned by General Robert E. Lee in the home of a black minister in Queens. In another story, an American president gets inspiration from a conversation he overhears in a stable.  Then there are the highly entertaining stories from members of The Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band. McBride was at The Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham not long ago. You might still find some signed first editions there of this book or McBride’s Kill ‘Em and Leave:  Searching for the Real James Brown and the American Soul or The Color of Water or The Good Lord Bird.

I link to Amazon to show you exactly what book I’m talking about but I love to shop locally at Church Street Coffee and Books, The Alabama Booksmith, Little Professor Book Center or visit my local library.