Monthly Archives: June 2011

‘We Are All Welcome Here’ by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg is one of my favourite writers. Her books are comfortable and she has uncanny insight into the ordinary, making  it extraordinary, and oh so recognizable. She has written about two dozen books, of which I’ve read over a dozen. I usually read one or two every year.  The books are all about different topics, but two of the types of characters she captures well are middle age women, and adolescent girls. Hmmm, might be hormonal. I also heard her speak at a conference and found her to be very articulate and wise. Her website is worth a visit. It is full of warmth and fun, and she is willing to share some of her personal life with readers as well as a list of her books. (Elizabeth Berg Website)

‘We Are All Welcome Here’ is a story of a remarkable woman who was paralyzed by polio, abandoned by her husband,  but was devoted to raising her daughter on her own, with help only from a daytime caretaker who was devoted to both of them. The woman gave birth to the child while she was in an iron lung! It is based on a true story.

One of her books is about a woman in love with a gay friend who can never return her love (Until the Real Thing Comes Along). She has a trilogy about a teenage girl( Durable Goods, Joy School, True to Form). There are some short story collections, one called The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted. We can all relate to that! The Handmaid and the Carpenter is a nice retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph. Pull of the Moon is a book of diary entries by a woman in mid life crisis who leaves her husband and goes on a driving trip to sort some things out. Apparently a few men have read it to better understand their menopausal wives! But in the book we never hear from the husband.  Then in one of her short story collections, her husband Martin gets a chance to speak and we hear his side of the story. (‘Martin’s Letter to Nan’ in Ordinary Life)  That is just a taste, I can’t really recommend one of her books over another, they are all good. Take your pick and enjoy!

‘Case Histories’ by Kate Atkinson

Crime fiction is something I read occasionally. When the mystery is part of a series and the protagonist is familiar,  it becomes a great thing to pick up when headed for a lazy day in the sun and sand.  This one does feel very much like a beach read.

Case Histories is first of the Jackson Brodie books and takes place in Britain. It is also a popular TV series there. Atkinson has written several other mysteries that are not part of this series.

The book begins with three seemingly random cases at the beginning which set up the story. Of course they become inevitably intertwined by the end.  Atkinson did a good job of making me care about the people in the story as well as looking for the whodunits. There are lots of clues along the way but they get thrown in unexpectedly so you have to pay attention. There is some violence, and some rather blunt, rough language so if that bothers you, stick to Miss Marple.  The tone that was set by doing that though, seemed to fit the atmosphere of the novel which has a quirky, comic feel to it, despite some very serious circumstances.

Jackson Brodie, the private eye, has a haunting history of his own to deal with and his own problems to solve. His adventures continue in One Good Turn, When will There be Good News, and Started Early, Took my Dog.

‘Quinoa: The Everyday Superfood’ by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming

First things first, it’s pronounced KEEN-wah (or maybe kee-NO-wah). Secondly, I have not gone dotty on cooking lately, that is not the reason for yet another cookbook post. I dislike cooking, but I enjoy eating and I love having people over for dinner – thus I need good cookbooks with easy recipes that still allow me to spend less time in the kitchen and more time in the sewing room, at the gym, or reading in the armchair. This book has tasty, easy recipes, many of which can be prepared in advance and served hot or cold.

Quinoa is a remarkable grain and everyone seems to be talking about it. And if you haven’t heard about it, well, now you have, and you can happily enter the conversation if it does come up.  Quinoa is easy to cook.  It is a little pricy but anything trendy usually is. Because it has protein it’s a wonderful choice for vegetarians and gluten free folk. The book begins with an introduction which gives a great overview of everything from nutritional value to a history of the grain. It was created with a bitter coating which originally protected it from being eaten by birds or insects. But we humans found a way to rub off the coating, that’s probably why it is a little more expensive. But when you compare it with the cost of meat and cheese, it’s actually pretty reasonable, and it doesn’t have cholesterol or trans fats.

This cookbook will be really useful to you for the summer when you are looking for interesting salads and quick dishes to cook up to round out the bbq meal. It cooks just like rice and actually triples itself, so it could be more economical in the long run. Because it is so good for you, you could even cook a little to keep in the fridge and sprinkle over a salad or add to a thin soup or stew. Presto! Healthy meal!

There are some interesting and unique dishes in this book, many of which could also be done with rice instead of quinoa, and vice versa. Any of your own rice or couscous recipes could be made by substituting quinoa. There is a substantial dessert section in the book, some of which looks so good, I might be tempted to cheat and substitute regular flour. And if you have babies or grand-babies, there’s even a section on baby food.

‘The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party’ by Alexander McCall Smith

This book made me think about shoes. No, not because of Mma Makutsi’s love of shoes, not because shoes actually talk in this book, and not because there is a shoe tragedy in this story. No, it is none of these. It is because when I pick up yet another instalment in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, it always feels like putting on an old comfortable pair of shoes and heading out for a pleasant walk in good weather. There is the sense that we know and recognize each other and have been down this road before.

If you are unfamiliar with this series, go to Smith’s website and get started.
Alexander McCall Smith It’s probably good to read them in order, whichever series you choose. If you are a frequent visitor to McCall Smith’s series, then you will enjoy the usual wit and wisdom.

As you may have guessed from the title, Mma Makutsi finally ties the knot with Phuti Radiphuti and Mma Ramotswe unravels another tangled situation or two. There is a reappearance of a character from earlier books – the little white van. And all three men:  JLB Matekoni, Phuti, and Charlie the apprentice, get to prove how kind and loving they really are.  Not at all a bad scene for yet another African sun to set on.