What I Read in June

Chasing Utopia: a Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni. Published by William Morrow, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, Copyright 2013.

 

This is a collection of the author’s poems and essays. Utopia, in this case, is actually a type of beer, and in the title piece, she talks about her search for this rare, expensive beverage. Other topics include black culture, hip hop music, family memories, poetry, and living alone. Although most of her essays were interesting, I was bored by a lot of her poems. They were just what I needed to put me to sleep on a Friday night in a strange motel room while attending a writers’ conference.

 

Where Aspens Quake by Tory Cates. Published 1983 by Simon & Schuster.

After photographer Christin Jonsson receives a negative review of her exhibit at an Albuquerque gallery, she quits her mindless job as a graphic designer, dumps her apathetic boyfriend, and flees to New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains where she is hired as a cross-country ski instructor at High Country Lodge. She falls for the establishment’s owner, Grayson Lowerey, but he turns away. His developmentally disabled daughter and past relationship with his ex-wife have created a barrier that Christin must help him overcome before the story can reach that happily ever after ending.

This book brought back memories of photography and skiing. My younger brother Andy dabbled in photography as a kid. Reading scenes where Christin is developing photos of mountain scenery in a rented dark room in Taos, I was reminded of the times I watched Andy develop pictures in an upstairs bathroom converted to a dark room. I also thought back to my two attempts at downhill and cross-country skiing during which I landed flat on my back and gave up. If I had an instructor like Christin, I might have succeeded. I liked the way she took the time to ensure each student’s success by starting them out on a level plain and then gradually increasing the route’s difficulty. In any case, during hot summer months, this book will refresh you.

 

Country Girl: A Memoir by Edna O’Brien. Copyright 2013.

 

Author Edna O’Brien talks about her life growing up in the Irish countryside before and during World War II and her life in Dublin where she apprenticed at a pharmacy and became involved in the theater and literary scene. She also describes how she married another writer against her family’s wishes, gave birth to two sons, and moved to London where she did most of her writing. She discusses the objections of Irish people to her novels and her husband’s resentment of her success as a writer and how that eventually led to a messy divorce. She then describes meeting such celebrities as Paul McCartney and Marlin Brando and other aspects of her writing life including how she wrote plays for stage and screen. That was about as far as I got before deciding not to finish the book.

Although I enjoyed Edna O’Brien’s reading of this book on a Hachette Audio recording, after her divorce, her experiences seem to become more and more bazaar. She describes a party during which a man offered to use an electric drill to bore a hole in her forehead and a session with a pseudo psychotherapist during which she and the man took LSD. After that, I decided enough was enough.

 

Wake the Dawn by Lorraine Snelling. Copyright 2013.

 

In the woods near the small town of Pineview, Minnesota, on the Canadian border, Ben, a patrol officer, finds an abandoned baby girl and takes her to a clinic run by Esther, a physician’s assistant. They work together to save the life of the baby and others in the wake of two severe storms that hit the town almost simultaneously, resulting in downed trees and power lines and damaged houses. Ben has turned to alcohol to help him cope with the death of his wife in a car accident. Esther suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a hit and run. Eventually, the two of them help each other divest themselves of their emotional baggage and achieve that happily ever after romantic ending.

Once I started this book, it was hard to put down. I was not in danger of falling asleep while listening to this one, another Hachette Audio recording. Although it wasn’t read by the author, the narrator did an excellent job, even using a Minnesota accent with some of the characters’ voices.

However, this book contains some religious overtones I could have done without. The themes of forgiveness and trusting in God aren’t introduced until the middle of the story by the time you’ve gotten into it and absolutely must know how it ends. Had I know this, I might not have read the book. Otherwise, it’s a good story.
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author,

Order That’s Life from Finishing Line Press.

Order That’s Life from Amazon.

Vote for my new book idea.

Recipe for Love

Picture this. You’re a successful chef with your own restaurant. Things are going pretty well until a television cook and food reviewer writes a scathing piece on your establishment. After that, things start going downhill, and you’re eventually forced to close your business.

Your aunt retires from her catering job with a wedding venue and arranges for you to have her old position temporarily. You really want this to become permanent. One day, your boss asks you to prepare a sample menu for special clients. No problem, you think, as you put the menu together and prepare the meal.

At the appointed time of the tasting, your boss tells you that only the groom’s brother has arrived, and he’ll be sampling the food. Okay, you think, as you start carrying everything into the dining room. Then, you spot him, that same chef who put you out of business with that awful review. He’s the groom’s brother, charged with arranging the food for the wedding.

Garrison Keillor would say, “Wouldn’t this be a good time for some bebop areebop rhubarb pie?” However, in Lucy Kevin’s book, The Wedding Gift, once successful San Francisco chef Julie Delgado ends up eating humble pie, opening her mind to new cooking possibilities, and falling in love with well-known television chef Andrew Kyle. Will these two cook up a brand new recipe together? You’ll just have to find out.

New York Times and Washington Post best-selling author Lucy Kevin’s books include Seattle Girl, Sparks Fly, and Falling Fast. The Wedding Gift is part of a series called Four Weddings and a Fiasco. The Washington Post has called Lucy Kevin one of the top writers in America. When she’s not writing, she’s swimming, hiking, or laughing with her husband and two children. Click here to read more.

I downloaded The Wedding Gift from Audible, but it should be available in print and eBook formats from Amazon and other online retailers. One thing I like about this book is that it’s short. Some romance authors drag out the “girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy” scenario, but in The Wedding Gift, things are resolved much more quickly as a result of its brevity. Although I didn’t like the ending at first, I definitely plan to read more of Lucy Kevin’s books. I can’t wait to get my next credit for a free download from Audible so I can read the second book in the Four Weddings and a Fiasco series.

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver