Wednesday, May 27, 2015


LUCY BURDETTE: Even though it didn’t feel much like summer this past week, Memorial Day weekend is supposed to mark that transition. Which makes it time to talk about what to read and what to eat while we’re reading. We have a lot of authors who visit here to tell us about their books, so maybe we’ll choose one from someone who hasn’t come to JRW?  

My pick is Walter Wells and Patricia Wells WE’VE ALWAYS HAD PARIS...AND PROVENCE.  I’m definitely a Francophile so I snatched this up when I saw it at one of the Key West Library’s book sales. If you aren’t familiar with the Wells family, they left good jobs at the New York Times to move to France when Walter was offered a job at the International Herald Tribune. Patricia managed to work herself into the position of food critic at L'Express, unheard of for a woman, and an American to boot. 25 plus years later, they are still living in France. The chapters alternate between the two--both are excellent writers and their journey is fascinating and mouthwatering.

Now what to eat...I’m dying for some real summer tomatoes. And once they arrive, I am going to make Patricia Wells’s recipe for puff pastry (found in THE FRENCH KITCHEN COOKBOOK) and serve tomato and olive tarts!

HALLIE EPHRON: Last month I did a shared event and got to know Holly Robinson. I adored her new book, "Haven Lake." It's one of those multi-generational stories that just have you rooting for everyone in it, though I confess I identified with the former-Hippie mother. So I've been saving one of Holly's other books, "Beach Plum Island," for a relaxing summer read. Great setup: Ava Barrett's father's last words on his deathbed: "I want your brother to know the truth." But Ava doesn't have a brother. What I didn't know about Holly: she wrote a piece for a women's magazine years and years ago called "Mom on Strike." It caused quite a stir, and I vividly remember reading. (Click here if you missed it and want to see what it said.)

What to eat? Peaches! Our produce market has just starting to get those little southern tree-ripened peaches that are exploding with flavor.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I  just did  shared event with the amazing Elin Hilderbrand--we had a fabulous time, laughing and  sharing stories.  She's written I forget how many--17?--NYT bestselling beach-read books about life on Nantucket. People were coming to her signing line with arms full of books, each sharing a personal nugget about how they'd connected with her stories. So, yeah, I bought two, and cannot wait. Her newest one is THE RUMOR, coming soon.

But generally, um, that's not what I read. Those family saga books make me sad, I have to admit So I--well, I remember spending delighted summer vacations with WINDS OF WAR, and BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES.  With THE GREEN MILE, remember? And UNDER THE DOME. Stephen King is a perfect beach read for me, as is Nelson DeMille.  Lisa Scottoline. And there's a new Linwood Barclay coming! So that's my kind of summer read…

As for food? CORN! Grilled outside. Fresh basil and mozzarella. Prosciutto and gorgeous melon! And gin and tonics! And lovely chilled rose wine.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Usually loaded down with research books regardless of season, but I _am_ looking forward to one "fun" read in particular, called I, RIPPER: A NOVEL, by Stephen Hunter, about — yep, you guessed it — Jack the Ripper. It's the Ripper's story (of course), but entwined with that of a fictional Irish journalist who's covering the case — "and how the two men stalk each other."

I'm not really into those generational family saga books, although I do remember loving THE JOY LUCK CLUB and THE SHELL SEEKERS. If anyone has a great recommendation, I'd certainly try it!
Summer food — tomatoes, mozzarella, basil drizzled with oil and vinegar. Anything grilled, especially corn on the cob. The Kiddo is obsessed with S'mores and the hubby does a great job with grilled meat and fish. It seems like we're house-sitting the late Jane Henson's (Jim Henson's widow's) country house in Connecticut for part of this summer, while Noel teaches a puppetry master class, so that's where we'll be....

RHYS BOWEN: Ah, summer reading. I'm hoping to do some un-work-related reading on a beach in Corfu next week. I met James Runcie at Crimefest and have one of the Granchester books to read. Also Connie Willis"s Blackout Books on my Kindle. And I love multi generational books. I'm a huge fan of Kate Morton... The Forgotten Garden etc. and to eat when reading? Being. Messy person it can't be peaches, Hallie. I'd drip all over the pages. But a favorite summer food is cherries. A bowl of cherries, and smoked salmon on thin brown bread, and Pimms to sip.... Now I'm really being indulgent!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, you will love Black Out and the James Runcies, I hope! Lucy, I have Patricia Wells' cookbook, too! Time to get that out and be inspired--although it feels more like monsoon than summer here. No beach for me (Rhys oh so casually says "on a beach in Corfu" and we are all dying of envy...) But I would just be thrilled to see sunshine. To sit on my deck in the mornings. To--gasp--lie in my hammock on my new (drowned) patio! As for summer reading, I have to confess that I have been re-reading Diana Gabaldon. I'm now halfway through Voyager, and at this rate I might get caught up on the books I haven't read by Christmas.  But if I picked a summer read for the days when I will eventually get to enjoy my hammock, I'd start with the Nancy Thayer  novel I bought last week, then move on to the Patricia Wells memoir that Lucy mentioned.

Summer food most anticipated?? Real tomatoes, with basil and olive oil. Cantalope with prosciutto. And TEXAS BLUEBERRIES by the pint!

What are you going to read and eat this summer Reds?


  1. Blueberries. Definitely blueberries.
    As for the books . . . so many choices. Wouldn't it be lovely to have an entire week of nonstop reading? Currently at the top of my to-be-read pile: Those Girls [Chevy Stevens] and Woman With a Secret [Sophie Hannah].

  2. Those sound good Joan--yes to the whole week spent reading! we should all do that!

  3. Ah, Beach Reads! Yes! Multi-Generation Sagas! Yes!
    These are my kinda books. (besides mysteries, of course).
    I think the beach reads genre gets a bit of a bad rap, personally. I've found them to be much "meatier" than some people give them credit for. Nancy Thayer, Elin Hilderbrand, Dorothea Benton Frank, Patti Callahan Henry, Karen White, Mary Alice Monroe, Anne Rives Siddons are all authors on my list of "Cannot-Wait-For-The-Next-One!" writers.

    And I have to say - I miss those big sagas something fierce. Rosamunde Pilcher's books sit here on my shelf in the bedroom that includes books I love deeply and will re-read when I'm in need of a friend. I love "The Shell Seekers" dearly, and her "Coming Home" and "September" are lovely beyond words, but her "Winter Solstice" remains my fave.

    Hank mentioned "Winds of War." I was working at the Trust Company of Georgia when I read that. And I read it all through the night without putting it down to go to bed. I called my boss at 8 a.m. and told him I was calling in sick because I was reading "Winds of War" and had not been to sleep. He said fine, stay home, finish the book and then bring it in so he could borrow it.

    Books! Wonderful glorious books! Don't you feel sad for people who don't read?!

  4. I must say, this is a rough way to start the day, dreaming of all this food! Too many yummy ideas.

    I'm a devotee of summer fruit: strawberries now, peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines, and my wild blackberries and black raspberries (looks like we'll have bumper crops of the wild berries this year). Also, I just had something called Cowboy Caviar, which has corn, black beans, cilantro, green pepper, and red onion. It is my new favorite. Sipping alongside, iced mint teas, made in the sun.

  5. Oh, yeah, reads! Debs, I reread the Outlander series last summer. That's gotten to be quite the commitment!

    Just finished a frothy little mystery that my husband already grabbed up because I laughed so much as I was reading it. Murder with a Twist, by Tracy Keily. I think it was included in my book bag at Malice. Starring Nic & Nigel Martini, today's version of Tommy & Tuppence. It takes place at Christmas, but that doesn't matter.

  6. I used to love those multi-generational sagas. They really don't write them like they used to. Or maybe I just don't have the time to seek out the quality ones and devote the necessary time to them. I will admit, I still read the yearly Jackie Collins - besides the Santangelo books, they are not as strong as they once were, but they are still a good diversion from life. I used to love Sidney Sheldon as well, but I haven't tried any of "his" new books (written by Tilly Bagshaw).

  7. I would like to go to Porchville for my summer vacation. Just a week on my porch, doing nothing except reading. The Girl wants to "go somewhere." There probably won't be a "family" vacation this year, as The Boy has three weeks' of Scout trips lined up. Oh well.

    Reading? Well, I have Hallie's Night, Night on deck. Karin Slaughter's Cop Town. Who knows what else I will dig up.

  8. Blueberries and tomatoes have been struck from my diet (grrr), but I look forward to summer veggies and PEACHES. As for reading, I am lucky to pretty much read whatever I want all year round. And I do.

    1. Oh no Denise, sorry about the tomatoes and blueberries. But yay for reading all the time!

  9. Oh, I forgot food! Salad with fresh cucumbers from the garden. Green beans that I picked that day. Bruschetta made with garden tomatoes. And sherbet for dessert (I like ice cream in the winter, but sherbet in the summer).

  10. Fresh vegetables--so wonderful!

    Outlander, huh? I love the's getting a little repetitive. Are the books fabulous?

  11. Hank, the Outlander books are incredible. They are quite the time investment, but I think Diana Gabaldon does an great job of making history interesting while also telling a fascinating fictional tale.

  12. I'm with Deborah--green with envy at the thought of a beach on Corfu, Rhys! First learned of Corfu by reading This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart, which led me to read The Tempest, which led me to watch Helen Mirren as Prospera in The Tempest. Summers are like that--full of magic--great food, books, movies, lazy days in the swing. Looking forward to all the glorious farmstand-fresh veggies and fruits, plus iced tea, and a certain Red's latest Duncan and Gemma, and Louise Penny's latest... while I wait for those, I'll browse the shelves at the library and pick up whatever tickles my fancy--a bio, something scientific, something humorous,a new mystery writer, possibly try some scifi/fantasy...alas, no multigenerational sagas--just can't get into those.

  13. On my summer reading list is Lucy's new book Fatal Reservations and Rhys's new book Malice in the Palace among many many others.

    And I really want to get some strawberries this year. I've been craving them recently.

    1. We have berries growing on our garden this year. Cannot wait!

  14. Hank, read the Outlander books! Although I don't know when you would ever find the time--it is quite a commitment. We just finished watching Season 1 of the series and I'm not sure I'll watch the second one. The scenery and the music and the costumes are fabulous, and I like the leads, but I think the writing is clunky and the pace is glacially slow--especially if you've read the books, which are unputdownable. (That is most definitely a word...)

    FChurch, This Rough Magic, one of my favorite books ever!!! Did you ever read Gerald Durrell's (brother of novelist Lawrence Durrell's) books set on Corfu? My Family and Other Animals is the first. Now I'm going to get mine out and add to my summer reading list!

    Mary Sutton, Porchville! That's my new summer vacation destination!!! Love it!

    As for summer drinks, next week I'm giving you Watermelon Gin Fizz, so be prepared:-)

  15. Wow! What a full post this morning, with food and reading and beaches in Corfu. All the Reds seem ready for a summer filled with delicious food and sweet reading. Summer food for me involves those delicious summer tomatoes, like Lucy is waiting for, and blueberries, locally grown, and peaches, like Hallie describes. Really, any fresh fruits and veggies are awesome in the summer.

    Rhys, I think everyone is envious of your reading time on a Corfu beach. I would wish you a great time, but that probably isn't necessary. I'm so happy to hear that you are going to read Blackout by Connie Willis, as I have loved all of her time traveling historians books. I assume you will read All Clear after Blackout, the conclusion book to Blackout. I would love for you to read Willis' Doomsday, one of my all-time favorite books, and To Say Nothing of the Dog, too. These are also the time traveling historians, with Doomsday being a very serious book, and To Say Nothing of the Dog being a delightful lighter side that will have you laughing as you read it.

    Debs, I'm impressed with you re-reading the Outlander series, and I can understand why you would want to if you are catching up to ones you haven't read. I started reading them six years ago, and I had about five books to read in a row to get up to speed. A great reading period! Of course, then I had to wait the long wait for new ones. Hank, the books are indeed fabulous! Karen, reading the Outlander series is a commitment to be sure.

    Susan, I had one of those Seinfeld moments where Elaine pushes Jerry back and says, "Get out," when I read that you and your family are going to be house sitting the late Jane Henson's house this summer. That is so cool! Oh, and I had forgotten that I want to read I, Ripper. Thanks for the reminder.

    Kaye, if you enjoy family sagas, I'd like to suggest Beach Music by Pat Conroy, since you have a Pat Conroy connection. You might have already read it, but if not, it is an amazing book.

    As for my summer reading, I am continuing down my long, long list of 2015 reads, and I am way behind. There are a couple ARCs at this time that I need to read before the books come out this summer-- A Study in Death (Lady Darby #4) by Anna Lee Huber (July 7th) and A Deceptive Homecoming by Anna Loan-Wilsey (July 28th). Plus I have two Peter May books to read as a part of the package I received for being a Super Fan, Entry Island (Comes out Sept. 15th) and Runaway, which I should have already read and will be next month.

    I've got two reading lists going right now, my usual reading list and the Bouchercon reading list for next fall. So, I'm trying to fit in some authors I need to catch up on for Raleigh, too. Then, I'm thinking about what books I want to pack when I go to Hawaii in July. Lucy's Fatal Reservations will be out right before I go, so that one is a no-brainer to pack. Some of my reading from now until the end of August will be as follows:

    The Fatal Flame (Timothy Wilde #3) by Lyndsay Faye (May 12th)
    Little Black Lies (stand alone) by Sharon (S.J.) Bolton (May 19th)
    A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson (May 5th)
    *Inside the O’Briens by Lisa Genova (April 7th)
    *Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight (April 14th)
    Assault and Pepper by Leslie Budewitz
    Edith Maxwell – Two books
    Ovidia Yu – 2014 Aunty Lee book #2
    Kaye Barley -- Whimsey
    The Mountain Story: A Novel by Lori Lansens (June 30th)
    Fatal Reservations (Haley Snow #6) by Lucy Burdette (July 7th)
    Pretty Little Things by Lori Rader-Day (July 7th)
    Malice at the Palace (Lady Georgie #9) by Rhys Bowen (Aug. 4th)
    Devil’s Bridge (Alexandra Cooper #17) by Linda Fairstein (Aug. 11th)
    The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny (Aug. 25th)

  16. This week I'm on a bland food plan due to health -- for the next few days. I never noticed before how many freakin' commercials on TV are about food and restaurants. Gah! It's torture. As was today's post. Sigh.
    I have got to, got to, got to work on my TBR pile this summer. It's mostly historical mysteries which I love but it is so easy to pick up the Kindle. I have new releases in July and August to look forward to but nothing in June so I'd better buckle down.
    Food? Don't make me think about food. Right now, anything other than chicken soup and Jello would be fabulous.

  17. PK - I hear you on bland food diets... for awhile we were avoiding everything acidic along with meat. And your comment about being surrounded by food and restaurants reminded me of a flight I once took, I was starving, sitting a few rows behind first class and assaulted by the aroma of steak and on the TV that you couldn't turn off was the food channel.

    Get well!

  18. You are going to love The Nature of the Beast, Kathy. It's another stunner from Louise Penny.

  19. Kathy, thanks for including me on your list!

    Fresh local everything: peaches, blueberries, tomatoes, basil, skinny eggplant...

    To read: Musseled Out - Barb Ross, Icing on the Corpse - Liz Mugavero, Come to Harm - Catriona McPherson, Lucy's Fata Reservations, and so many more.

  20. I just finished HAVEN LAKE and loved it - can't wait to read BEACH PLUM ISLAND. Taking OUTLANDER with me on a trip that starts tomorrow. And I want to go back and start Louise Penney from the beginning this summer. As for food - I'll take all the strawberries I can get.

  21. Kathy,
    Thank you so much for including my Whimsey on your list. You have made my day. And, I agree with Kristopher, you are going to love The Nature of the Beast. Promise.

    And, oh yes, I have read Pat Conroy's Beach Music, along with everything else he's written. All more than once.

    I don't know how I forgot to include my summer food craves in my earlier comment. Tomatoes! REAL tomatoes. I don't buy them during the winter months, but as soon as our produce stands open up and real tomatoes start showing up I am there. And we eat BLTs while our eyes roll back in our heads and we emit groans of ecstasy.

  22. Beach reads: all of those big books in the sixties and seventies:
    • The Settlers (Meyer Levin) and The Old Bunch and Compulsion, for that matter
    • All of those Micheners, particularly The Drifters, Hawaii and The Source
    • Anything by R. F. Delderfield (God is an Englishman and countless others; I read them all)
    • Shogun (didn’t do college homework for four days while I read that one) or anything else by James Clavell
    • The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye
    • Hanta Yo by Ruth Beebe Hill
    • Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo (there was a doorstop for sure)
    • And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer (actually 1982)
    • Valley of the Dolls (an absolute must, but not that long by comparison)
    • Raintree County by Ross Lockridge (1948, but I read it in the sixties)

    But I don’t have time for them now, even if someone were writing them. Haven’t got time for Diana Gabaldon or George Martin or Neal Stephenson (although I did read Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and it really wasn’t for me).

    These days I stick to the 19th century triple-deckers: Dickens, Eliot, Thackeray, and Trollope plus a little Tolstoy, Dumas, and Hugo for a change. You can’t beat them for storytelling. Or the double-deckers: Hardy, Austen, and the Brontes as well.

  23. And how could I forget The Tontine by Thomas B. Costain, one of the biggest of all...