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Books We Like

Published 3/10/2015 by Carolyn Price

Books We Like

I have a hard time answering the question, “What’s your favorite book?” Many times it may be whatever I’m currently reading. Every so often, quite by accident, I’ll find a new author that I truly enjoy. This happened recently when I found Liza Palmer. I discoveredNowhere but Home in the back shelves because I needed something to read and nothing on the new book shelf called out to me, that I had not already read.

I loved this book and the way Palmer developed her characters. Queenie Wake, a self-made chef working at hotel restaurant in New York, gets fired again. This time because she wouldn’t allow a customer to put ketchup on her food. It seems she has a problem keeping a cooking job, but only because she cares more for her food preparation than she does for people. She goes back home (North Star, TX) for the first time in several years, since she feels she has no other place to go. She dreads the idea of this because there’s lots of personal baggage there that hasn’t been resolved. She gets a job cooking “last” meals at the nearby prison. She finally realizes her family’s past has to be reconciled as does the relationship with her old flame from high school. I grew attached to the characters, laughed and cried with them, as Queenie finds “a place to call home”.

Since I enjoyed this one so much, I started searching out Palmer’s other books. My next favorite of hers is A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents. Another intriguing tale as four siblings rally around a dying father that none have seen since he left their mother over thirty years ago. Grace is the middle child and doesn’t handle loss well, having run away after their mother died five years ago. She reunites with her siblings at the father’s death bed as they reminisce about their past and present. They unexpectedly find out that they weren’t forgotten by their father, but are the beneficiaries of his large estate which will be contested by the “money-grubbing step family straight from fairy-tale hell”. Again, well written, with a mess of family relationships that Palmer inevitably works out.

I really like Wilbur Smith’s novels. Some of my favorite ones deal with ancient Egypt and his newest one fell into this category. Desert God brings colorful scenes of the everyday life of royalty, including the Pharaoh and his sisters. The main character is Taita, a freed slave and advisor to the Pharaoh. He has been in several other titles by Smith and is described in The Quest as “a warlock”, “wise in the lore of the gods and a master of magic and the supernatural”. He is amazing to say the least, and in this saga his mastery of war and battles plays a major part. He devises a plan to destroy (not just defeat) Egypt’s greatest enemy, the Hyksos. He also has to plan and travel with the royal sisters and the vast entourage this entails (hairdressers, servants, entertainers, etc.) as well as an army with horses, chariots, and camels as they journey up the Nile, through Arabia and its desert, to Babylon and across open seas.

This trip takes over a year and the plan is to offer the royal sisters as brides to the Supreme Minos in Crete to gain his allegiance to the Pharaoh and help with the war. However this becomes a nightmare for everyone involved. There’s heroic fights, romance, mythology, and betrayal around every corner. A great roller coaster ride through this lost world of ancient Egypt.

I listened to The Beekeeper’s Balll by Susan Wiggs and thoroughly enjoyed it. Isabel Johansen has lived with her paternal grandparents her whole life at Bella Vista, a mission-style hacienda in Archangel, California. This is a very small town in the Sonoma Valley, so the views are gorgeous and it’s next door to a vineyard. She has decided to remodel this rambling home into a destination cooking school, since she loves to cook and is very good at it. The house is surrounded by a 100 acre working apple orchard that her grandfather still supervises, large gardens and beehives. Each chapter starts with facts about bees and/or recipes involving honey. Her grandmother has recently died and she starts this project as much to honor her since Isabel received much of her instruction from her grandmother. Her half sister, Tess Delaney, has recently come into her life and has decided to have her wedding at Bella Vista with Isabel doing much of the special cooking. In addition to all of this activity, Tess has brought in an international journalist, Cormac O’Neill, to work with their grandfather on a biography of his life, full of WWII intrigue in Denmark. Isabel learns much about her family, especially her grandfather, as they all listen to his remarkable story. It gives her strength to finally take control of her past and put it to rights, making it possible to love for the first time. This is the second in the Bella Vista series after The Apple Orchard.

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it cover, but the cover of this one made me want to read it. The cover to The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda E. Brunstetter shows an eclectic group of people around an Amish lady, with one man holding a sewing machine. I just had to read it to see what in the world was going on. Emma Yodor, an Amish widow, is an excellent quilter and she wants to bring in a little extra money so that she’s not such a burden to her extended family. She advertises a quilting class in her home in Shipshewana, Indiana, and six characters show up. There’s a bickering couple on the verge of divorce, Star Johnston, the youngest who only wears black and has just lost her grandmother, a young widowed Hispanic father who wants to finish his daughter’s quilt that his wife started before she died, a preacher’s African American wife wanting something to do to help her relax amid the parish problems, and a big, tattooed biker who needs to become creative. Each of the group, including the teacher, all have to come to trust each other as well as themselves as they work on a beginner’s quilt and a new start on their established lives. The book includes a quilt pattern as well!