Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal (out in August) -- First up on my reading list is this debut novel about a young woman who becomes a legendary chef in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The first pages drew me in (and made me laugh) as I read about a chef planning his soon-to-be-born baby daughter's first meals. "Week One (No Teeth, So): 1. Homemade guacamole. 2. Pureed prunes (do infants like prunes?) .... 7. Olive tapenade (maybe with pureed Cerignola olives?) ..." The new father was quite disappointed when he learned his daughter would have to be two years old before sampling his menu. With this upbringing, it's no surprise the daughter grows up to be a culinary whiz. I'm eager to join her on her journey.
The Silver Swan by Elena Deblanco (available now) -- This story about a world-famous cellist, his talented daughter and a rare Stradivarius has struck a chord with me. Perhaps it was meeting the author, who was elegant yet down-to-earth. Perhaps it's the beautiful book cover. Maybe it's my developing appreciation of cello music (compliments of our Charlotte Symphony Orchestra). Whatever the reason, I'm looking forward to reading this book inspired by Deblanco's musings about what might have happened to the ex-Paganini Stradivarius cello owned by her father, cellist Bernard Greenhouse, upon his death. (Click here to read a nice review of The Silver Swan from the Washington Post.)
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (out in January) -- I've become a fan of YA (young adult) books. Not the kind with giggling girls worrying if Johnny is going to ask them to the prom or the dystopian books that were all the rage (although I did love The Hunger Games series). But there are lots of YA books dealing with real issues that confront young people, both today and in the past. And when these issues are addressed by a talented author, I'm all in. Anna and the Swallow Man looks to be one of these books. This slim novel is set in 1939 Krawkow and tells the story of Anna, a seven year old girl whose father has been taken by the Germans in their purge of intellectuals. Left alone, Anna meets The Swallow Man, a mysterious stranger who helps her avoid discovery. The publishers' representatives tempted me--and set the bar high--with their comparison to The Book Thief. My fingers are crossed.
This is Your Life, Harriet Chance by Jonathan Evison (out in September) -- A couple of years ago, I picked up a copy of Evison's The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving at BEA. It was a good read -- quirky, funny and touching in one fell swoop. And so I made sure to be there this year when Algonquin handed out galleys of Evison's This is Your Life, Harriet Chance. The book tells the story of a 79-year old woman who sets off on an Alaskan cruise two years after her husband dies. It's apparently a journey that proves a bit more eventful than expected as Harriet discovers she's been living the past sixty years under a misconception. While I know there's commerce involved in an author's endorsement of a book, I did notice that Maria Semple calls this book "sweet, inventive, profound and hilarious." (In case you don't know Semple's name, she wrote the wildly funny Where'd You Go, Bernadette.) I'm intrigued -- and given the number of people I know here who enjoy cruising, I expect this will be a good book to share.
And now it's time to curl up and get reading.