The Baker’s Apprentice

The Baker's Apprentice

Judith Ryan Hendricks

I was first introduced to Ms. Hendricks’ work through the novel Bread Alone, which I mostly read in a single night in a hotel in L.A. that had an extremely uncomfortable mattress. That book was warm and funny, and when I finished it, I was inspired to bake bread for the first time in years, so when I discovered that a sequel was published this year, I immediately added it to my amazon wishlist, and then ordered it when I spent the birthday gift certificates I’d amassed.

I regret to confess – I’m disapponted in the sequel. The Baker’s Apprentice lives up to all those negative stereotypes of second novels (though it’s actually her third), and while the old familiar characters – Wynter who fled her cheating husband in L.A. and moved to Seattle to bake bread, her friend and sometime roomate, the dancer CM, young blue-haired art school dropout and cake decorator, Tyler, andMac the bartender/novelist who wins Wynter’s heart – are all there, they seem pale shadows of their earlier selves, and instead of coming away from this book feeling cozy and wanting to sip coffee and smell bread baking, I feel cold and sort of hollow and unsatisfied.

If Bread Alone was a perfectly flakey croissant with sweet cream butter and bitter dark marmalade, The Baker’s Apprentice is Wonder bread – bland, spongey, and utterly lacking in color.

Atlantis Found

Atlantis Found (A Dirk Pitt Novel)

Clive Cussler

My friend Rana mentioned the movie Sahara, and Clive Cussler books as a guilty pleasure in one of her blog entries, so when I saw several of his books on the library shelf, I picked one at random.

Atlantis Found reimagines the typical lost society of Atlantis and ties them together with a group of Nazi survivors hiding in South America and plotting to take over the world – on the surface not terribly original, except that it’s a Dirk Pitt novel which means there are exotic locations and cool gadgets and a sort of Indiana Jones / James Bond sense of fun.

I enjoyed the book a lot, but couldn’t talk about it because I knew it would be the type of thing Fuzzy would enjoy, and, indeed, he’s been reading it all weekend. I’m not sure I could read Cussler in large doses, but every so often, a visit with Mr. Pitt might not be ill-advised.

The Cat Who Went Bananas

The Cat Who Went Bananas

Lilian Jackson Braun

From the first Cat Who… book, I jumped to one of the more recent, as I’d lost track of the series several years ago, and felt the need to catch up. Qwilleran and the cats (KoKo aquired a female partner a few books into the series) are in the tiny town of Pickax now, and the characters woven through this story are mostly old friends.

It involves a local production of The Importance of Being Earnest, bananas, bookstores, and real estate.

Enough said.

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards (Cat Who...)

Lilian Jackson Braun

I read this book years ago – decades even – when my mother still lived in the US, and we used to hit the library together every weekend, sometimes with my grandmother, sometimes not, and take home as many books as we could carry. Together, we worked through all of this series, as well as many others.

In any case, this book was originally published in 1966, but it manages to hold up pretty well, considering, and it’s the first in a long series of cozy mysteries about reporter Jim Qwilleran and his crime-solving Siamese cat KoKo.

These books aren’t intellectual in the slightest, but they’re full of great characters, gastronomic and architectural delights, and mild mysteries that are completely lacking in horror and gore.

Perfect for afternoon tea.
Or for sharing with your mother.



Danielle Steel

I’m embarrassed to admit that I read this. In my own defense, it came as a book club selection I forgot to cancel, and since it was here, I read it. The story, that of a widower and a widow connecting with the help of their handyman, is pretty formulaic, and the characters are extremely two-dimensional, but I really liked the descriptions of the houses and the main character’s yacht.

This is the sort of book one only reads when locked in a bathroom or hospital waiting room, with no other reading material.

Kushiel’s Avatar

Kushiel's Avatar (Kushiel's Legacy)

Jacqueline Carey

I don’t remember who recommended the Kushiel books to me in the first place, only that I resisted reading them for the longest time, then, when I did, sheepishly admitted that I liked them.

In any case, I bought this, the final book in the Kushiel’s Legacy trilogy, several months ago, but only read it very recently, when I was between trips to the library. I liked it well enough, I guess, but I hate to see series end, even though the ending in this case was a natural one, as the story arc was not only complete, but all the loose ends had been tied up.

Forgiveness: Wisdom from Around the World

Forgiveness: Wisdom from Around the World

Gillian Stokes

My friend Sky sent me this beautiful little book, and it’s quickly become a personal treasure. It’s not the sort of thing I’d ever have picked up on my own (I’d have looked at it, been intrigued, and then moved on to the fiction section), but as a gift, I appreciate it immensely.

While the text is helpful, both in a common-sense advice sort of way, and as the subject of many meditations, the quotations and art are what hooked me first, and what I love about this book is that I can pick it up anywhere, re-read it, leave it for a while, and then come back, and still get something new from it.

Thank you, Sky, for sharing this treasure.

STT: Taking Wing

Titan, Book One : Taking Wing (Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels

Opening very soon after the end of Star Trek: Nemesis, this novel is the first in a subseries of Pocket’s Star Trek: The Next Generation series, and is set in the first mission of the U.S.S. Titan, under the command of William T. Riker.

It includes a mix of characters from TNG, DS9 and Voyager, as well as some familiar faces from the A Time To… series, and was surprisingly interesting, though it was difficult to read a novel with TNG characters that didn’t include Picard or Data.

Definitely worth reading.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

Lynne Truss

Much fuss was made about this book a couple of years ago when it was freshly printed. It’s billed as a “zero tolerance approach to punctuation,” but the American version, at least, spends fully half the text discussing the apostrophe.

For a grammar book, it’s amusing, and author Truss has a readable, if sometimes snobbish, voice.
Grammar mavens should definitely check it out, but real writers are probably better off sticking with Strunk and White.