Robin to the Rescue By Robin Miller

I am a huge cookbook fan. I also love food telly. This cookbook is fabulous! Loads of recipes with just a few ingredients, which you have to love, and easy to make directions. She takes a lot of classic ideas and spins them just a little to keep some interest. I get that. It is so easy to get into food ruts especially during busy weekdays but it really isn’t hard to branch out a little when you have some help. That is one of the main reasons I am such a cookbook junkie. I look at hundreds of recipes for ideas and then mix it up even more. I then look at what’s on sale too but that’s another story.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie By Alan Bradley

Charming mystery set in England around the 1940s. Very descriptive tale from the eyes of an 11 year old girl, Flavia. She is enveloped in her chemistry laboratory set-up in her home and yearns for adventure especially away from her narcissistic older and bookworm middle sisters. The way little Flavia describes her detective work is enchanting. Even though she is still a juvenile, her view of the world is a little jaded and at times humourous. I did enjoy this book but find that others really loved it. I am partial to mysteries that have a lot of character development which Bradley has certainly done. As far as the mystery is concerned I did not think it was as enthralling as others, but that’s just me. I have to say the idea of a mystery landing on my doorstep when I was a kid would have been the ultimate. We used to imagine all sorts of wrongdoing in our neighbourhood and I can only guess how it would have felt if something real had happened – and a murder to boot! The author does a really good job communicating her feelings throughout this tale and that is half the fun.

Best Friends Forever By Jennifer Weiner

A light, easy read about two girls who grew up together, become estranged and are brought back together again. The reason for the reunion is the main story of the book so I won’t spoil it. It does accentuate how cruel kids can be and how they hide shame and sadness with bravado and mean comments, often to increase their own popularity and what we would now term self-esteem. The characters are not particularly likeable so it is a little hard to get into and the very ‘Pollyanna-ish’ ending is quite ridiculous. But here I am unpublished and this is not Jennifer’s first time at the rodeo as it were. Kudos to her. If you want a beach-type fluffy read this is it.

The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

This is an enjoyable story of 11 girls, friends from childhood, who grew up in Ames, Iowa. The author spotlights each girl so you really get to know their personalities and who they are the closest to within the group. This is a super quick read but is written intelligently. There were a couple of times I disagreed with the actions or ideals of some of the girls but then realized this is biographical – in other words, I got over it. This is good because in essence I really got into their lives whilst reading. The old adage applies here – I laughed, I cried; but that’s how life is and the point is their friendships have survived many different ordeals. The old Midwestern values come through pretty strongly too. You truly feel as if you know these girls and at times are there sitting in the circle with them at one of their reunions. On a personal note I have to say that my friendships with other women are such a blessing to me but none of them are from childhood and I felt a little envious of these ladies. The author points out how much we really need each other, in the good and bad and these ladies are a great example to us all of enduring love.

I Know This Much Is True By Wally Lamb

This book is a tough one. I read She’s Come Undone by the same author many years ago but remember enjoying it. While I was reading ‘I Know’ I kept on going back and forth. I liked it, I didn’t like it. It has excessive use of bad language, too descriptive sex scenes but then a great story line. The basic premise is the tale of two identical twins, one mentally ill and the other dealing with it, or not, as the case may be. Interesting generational story included although not at all flattering to the ‘old country’ folk. Life, death, marriage, birth – this book has it all. I have to say that at the end I enjoyed it, but goodness, getting there was quite a haul. 900 pages! I am usually quite good about plowing through larger tomes but this is not War and Peace. This puppy took days to read. The characters are not really likeable so that doesn’t help. It was rarely uplifting so therefore, for me, a little harder to want to jump into but life is seldom what we see in the movies and so maybe I should back off a bit. The writing is extraordinary – they say write what you know so maybe the author has first hand knowledge, I don’t know. What I do know is I have come away with a more compassionate view of those dealing with loved ones with this type of mental illness. Maybe that was his point.