Posts Tagged ‘Adriana Trigiani’

I tend to go through phases in my reading (though I do read a variety of genres in any given month). My Agatha Christie kick is going strong, thanks in part to the read-along. And I cannot get enough of the Moffats and their antics. But there’s more:

The Thirteen Problems, Agatha Christie
I enjoyed this collection of short stories featuring Miss Marple and her friends – I was amazed again and again at Christie’s skill in rendering plot twists and key details. I’m not a very good amateur sleuth (I never could solve the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries as a kid) – so Miss Marple astonished me (and everyone else) every time.

Sisterhood Everlasting, Ann Brashares
I love the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books. LOVE them. So I was both excited and worried about this new chapter in the girls’ lives, right before they all turn 30. And it was more painful and tragic than I ever expected…but it wasn’t all heartbreak. Some wonderful moments of light and joy, too. Not my favorite of the series, but I enjoyed spending some more time with Bee, Carmen, Lena and Tibby (and all the people they love).

A Murder is Announced, Agatha Christie
Miss Marple does it again – playing the sweet-old-spinster shtick to the hilt, while calmly digging up everyone’s secrets right under their very noses. She even confounds the Scotland Yard folks, which makes me love her even more.

Cooking with My Sisters, Adriana Trigiani
A delicious memoir-cookbook, complete with family snapshots and interjections from each sister, as well as lots of yummy-looking recipes. I checked it out from the library, but I may end up buying it – the recipes are that good. (It doesn’t hurt that we love Italian food at our house.)

The Moffats, Eleanor Estes
It’s been ages since I read this book – a fun tale of four siblings in Cranbury, Connecticut in the 1940s. (Similar to the Melendy Quartet, but with a slightly different flavor.) Jane, the third Moffat, narrates most of the fun, and there’s something in every chapter to make me smile.

The Middle Moffat, Eleanor Estes
Jane decides to style herself as the mysterious middle Moffat – and oh, the fun she has being in the middle! Just as charming as The Moffats. Jane is funny, sweet and utterly original – I especially love her friendship with Mr. Buckle, the oldest inhabitant of Cranbury.

Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith from Politics, Alisa Harris
I’m reviewing this for Shelf Awareness, so more to come – but I will say what I said on Twitter: this is a thoughtful, well-written and witty look at one girl’s journey from uber-conservative homeschooler to a moderate with lots of questions.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, Kathleen Flinn
Review in the Shelf to come – but I loved this tale of a Cordon Bleu grad and her class of nine volunteers, gaining confidence by practicing knife skills, making their own vinaigrette and learning how to roast a chicken. A down-to-earth foodie memoir, with delicious-looking recipes.

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses, Claire Dederer
After reading Lindsey’s gorgeous review, I picked this book up at the library. It’s a hilarious, often sad, poignant exploration of yoga as it relates to life – growing up, becoming a mother, learning how to argue with your spouse, learning to deal with quirky relatives, and coming to terms with the sadness of an unstable childhood. Really well done. (As an ambivalent sometime yogi, I could relate to Dederer’s mixed feelings about the practice.)

Rufus M., Eleanor Estes
The third book about the Moffats – more and more fun, with a dose of wartime travails (chilblains, too little coal, not enough money). The Moffats’ hardships never dampen their spirits for long, though. And the last chapter is purely beautiful.

Viola in the Spotlight, Adriana Trigiani
I find Trigiani’s books compulsively readable, and this second installment in the Viola series was no exception. Viola, teenage filmmaker, has grown up a bit since her first adventure (Viola in Reel Life), and she’s back in Brooklyn, learning to juggle two part-time jobs, figuring out how to be there for her friends and navigating life with a guy BFF who may feel something more. Good stuff.

Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers, Adriana Trigiani
Because I’ve read all of Trigiani’s novels and Cooking with My Sisters (see above), I knew the basic outlines of Trigiani’s family history. But oh, there were so many delicious details about Viola and Lucy, the grandmothers, and so many great lessons, from fashion tips to relationship advice to smart business sense. They were two powerhouse women, and their granddaughter writes about them with such love.

Time for the perennial question: What are you reading these days?

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Messenger of Truth, Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie Dobbs’ fourth adventure takes her into the world of fine art – when a popular artist falls to his death from the gallery scaffolding as he puts up a new exhibit. Maisie delves into his past (as an artist and a propagandist during the war), the intricacies of his family life, and the nuances of art dealing. Well-written and fascinating, as always. (I grow more “mad for Maisie” with every book.)

An Incomplete Revenge, Jacqueline Winspear
It’s hop-picking time in Kent, and Maisie investigates a village plagued by mysterious fires, while befriending a band of gypsies and letting go of her beloved Simon, whose health is declining (he’s been in a near-catatonic state since 1916). Maisie’s gypsy heritage comes to the fore here, and I’m amazed at her skill and compassion in divining the secrets of a village long haunted by its own shame. Stunningly well done.

Juliet, Anne Fortier
A fun, intricate, richly detailed re-imagining of the story of Romeo and Juliet – with a modern twist. Julie Jacobs is shocked to find out she’s descended from the real Juliet – and even more shocked to discover that “a plague on both your houses” might still be an active curse. She travels to Italy to find out the truth, and in the process finds out more about her family – and herself – than she ever knew. (Her story alternates with historical flashbacks.) An enjoyable, engrossing read.

A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg
I’ve read a few cookbook-cum-memoirs in my day, and I think this one is my favorite. Molly’s tone is engaging and funny, her family is endearingly quirky and her love affairs – with Paris, food, and Brandon, who is now her husband – are sweet. And her recipes are delicious – my favorites include the pesto and the Scottish scones. (I also love Molly’s blog. Deliciously entertaining.)

The Heretic’s Daughter, Kathleen Kent
Another story of the Salem witch trials, this time from the perspective of a child also imprisoned, whose mother is condemned to die. I actually didn’t like this one much; I didn’t find any of the characters very sympathetic. The history is fascinating, but perhaps I’ve read too many Puritan narratives since arriving here. And in the long grey of February, I wanted something brighter.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman
I loved this story. Splashed with color from huge flower gardens and lush with the scent of magnolia blossoms and cinnamon rolls, this was a real Southern treat in the middle of a cold northern winter. I loved watching CeeCee, transplanted from Ohio to Savannah when her mother dies, slowly find her way in this new, “perfumed world that seemed to be run entirely by women.” She eventually makes her peace with her tough childhood and begins to embrace her new friends – wise, kind, quirky women one and all. I cried several times, but I think I laughed more.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, ed. Joan Reardon
What a literary treat these letters are. Highly political, sharp, hilarious, foodish and written “in haste” amid their busy lives, this collection provides fascinating glimpses into – well, all sorts of things. Life in France, Germany, Norway and the U.S. during the 1950s and early 1960s; the evolution of a friendship; French cooking and the making of Julia’s cooking career; life in the U.S. Foreign Service; McCarthyism; the role of smart, independent women. After Julie and Julia (the film and the book) and My Life in France, these letters are the perfect dessert.

Devotion, Dani Shapiro
I’d been hearing about this book for months, and I love Dani’s lyrical blog. I enjoyed her honest, thoughtful reflections on what it means to be a person of faith, and to be a part of a family chain of faith. She doesn’t shy away from the tough questions. I was a little disappointed in the ending – it seemed a bit abrupt, and her strategy of cherry-picking bits of various faiths is quite different from my own. Still, I appreciate her courage in facing these big questions.

Rococo, Adriana Trigiani
I love Trigiani’s work – she draws perfect portraits of crazy, big, loud, loving Italian-American families. And she has such an eye for color and detail, expressed here in the main character’s love of interior design. The cast of characters in this small New Jersey town are all searching for transformation of some kind – and it goes hand in hand with the renovation of their beloved church. Hilarious, entertaining and satisfying.

Among the Mad, Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie’s sixth adventure unnerved me – stories of mental illness give me the creeps, and this one was no different. Still, Maisie and her colleagues at Scotland Yard do some brilliant work in tracing an unbalanced ex-soldier who issues a series of death threats. Winspear is probing deeper and deeper into the scars left on England and its people by the Great War.

The Queen of the Big Time, Adriana Trigiani
This was the only Trigiani novel I hadn’t yet read – so I grabbed it at the library one night. And flew through it, of course – her books are so fun, and compulsively readable. The only thing I don’t like about them is that they’re over too soon. But this tale of an Italian-American family in a mill town in Pennsylvania was funny, heartwarming and satisfying, like her others.

Julie, Catherine Marshall
I needed something to read on the T, so grabbed this old favorite. And I found the story just as compelling as ever. Julie Wallace and her father – indeed their entire family – struggle with faith, tight finances, fitting into a new town and standing up for what’s right in Depression-era Pennsylvania. Julie is one of my literary heroines, who scribbles as compulsively as I do, and I admire her sense of justice and her father’s quiet integrity. I love this book.

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Bittersweet: Thoughts on Grace, Change, and Learning the Hard Way, Shauna Niequist
I won this book in a giveaway on Alisha’s blog, and read it o’nights propped up in bed, after we got back from our bittersweet Christmas trip. Shauna writes with honesty and grace about some hard stuff – losing jobs and miscarriages and trying to find her way again. She believes in the grace of the everyday, in good meals and time with friends and celebrating small victories. She knows there are no easy answers, that faith is not a set of rules or theories, that often you have to go through the bitter to reach the sweet. I felt like I was having coffee with a girlfriend – one who’s been through the hard stuff and come out on the other side. Now I want to read her other book, Cold Tangerines.

Birds of a Feather, Jacqueline Winspear
I devoured this second Maisie Dobbs book in a DAY. Even more intriguing than the first. I love reading about Maisie’s detective methods and her relationships with her assistant, her father, her mentor and others. It’s fascinating to trace her journey as she moves beyond the Great War, but carries its legacy with her, and also as she balances her “upstairs” roots with her “downstairs” life. (She used to be a maid; now she’s a college-educated detective.) Great read. (The read-along continues at Book Club Girl.)

Big Stone Gap, Adriana Trigiani
I am a new and passionate Trigiani fan, so I had to check out the series that made her famous. And I loved the story of Ave Maria Mulligan and all her crazy, quirky friends in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. So heartfelt and honest and so funny. I checked out the sequel right away.

Big Cherry Holler
, Adriana Trigiani
This sequel to Big Stone Gap looks at some serious issues in a marriage – what happens when grief and the routine of everyday life start to erode your passion? – with humor and style. I was rooting for Ave Maria’s marriage all the way, partly because I’m a fan of marriage in general, but partly because I knew she and Jack Mac, her husband, have something special. It was a hard journey back for them, but a rewarding one.

Milk Glass Moon, Adriana Trigiani
“The hardest part of love is letting go,” they say – which is more true for Ave Maria, the main character of this series, than it is for most. She learns to let her daughter grow up, let her friends face their own struggles, let her husband provide for the family in his own way. At times I want to shake her and at times I want to hug her – but I love spending time with Ave Maria and the rest of the Big Stone Gap gang.

Home to Big Stone Gap, Adriana Trigiani
Lots of new challenges in this final book of the series – but it’s well worth reading to discover how they turn out. If you liked the other three books, you’ll like this one too, I think. (And the town production of The Sound of Music is downright hilarious.)

Anne’s House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery
I’ve been thinking about Anne and her life in Four Winds – her adjustment to a new community, her friendships with Captain Jim and Miss Cornelia and Leslie Moore. So I picked this book up again for some comfort. I love every page, especially Captain Jim’s tales and Leslie’s transformation. And it speaks to me because I, too, am a young wife in a new place.

Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery
I can’t tell you how much I love this book, and every character in it (well, except snarky Irene Howard), and all the adventures of life at Ingleside during World War I. My favorite part is the patient courage of the women of Ingleside, who keep the home fires burning – and so much more – while their young men are off at war. Anne, Rilla, Susan and Miss Oliver are true heroines. And the scenes with little Dog Monday make me cry every. single. time.

Pardonable Lies, Jacqueline Winspear
More Maisie – which means more mystery, more seemingly unconnected cases which turn out to be intertwined, and more about the heartbreaking legacy of World War I. This book brought some important healing – and some startling revelations – for Maisie herself. Since she’s in the business of bringing truth and healing to others, I knew it would be her turn for both eventually. Quite well done, as usual.

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Maud Hart Lovelace
This was a Christmas gift from Abi, who completed my collection by giving me the first four Betsy-Tacy books. I love Betsy’s visits to the library, as the world opens up to her through classic literature. I love the magic of the Opera House and the girls’ Christmas shopping expedition. And I love watching Betsy begin to blossom as a writer – and her charming poem, “The Curtain Goes Up.”

On Rue Tatin, Susan Herrmann Loomis
I found this in the Booksmith’s Used Book Cellar, and salivated over every page. Not only are Loomis’ recipes drool-worthy, but I loved the story of her time as an apprentice chef in Paris, her later move to France and the painstaking renovation of an old monastery into a home. She talks about the light, the shops, the countryside and the people with such joy and obvious affection. And some of the recipes actually look doable (a rarity in French foodie memoirs).

In the Company of Others, Jan Karon
It’s no secret I love all things Mitford, so I was thrilled to receive this new novel for Christmas. And oh my, I loved it. Heartbreaking, funny, poignant and real – and set in Ireland, which I adore. I appreciate Father Tim’s deep humility and Cynthia’s wisdom, and I enjoyed meeting the new characters, especially Pud (short for Pudding), the shoe-chewing Jack Russell terrier.

The Language of Trees, Ilie Ruby
I met Ilie at a writing workshop – a morning of shop-talk and sharing at the Concord Bookshop. She’s charming and zesty in person, so I had to pick up her book (and get her to sign it). And I was irresistibly drawn into this story of a community on the shores of Lake Canandaigua in upstate New York. Powerful stories; elegant writing; characters I wanted to walk with and talk with. And so much here about the power of secrets – those we tell, and those we keep.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
I picked this one up in Concord too, because I’d been hearing about it. A charming, unusual love story set in the English countryside, with quirky characters and a delightful, unlikely hero. (And frequent references to how to properly brew a cup of tea.) This is about family, love, prejudice and choosing to live your own life, and I loved it.

Kat, Incorrigible, Stephanie Burgis
I’m always entering contests to win galleys of books, and this one arrived in the mail this week. Regency England + lighthearted magic + a spunky 12-year-old narrator = oodles of fun. Jane Austen with a dash of Harry Potter, for the younger set. It’s the first in a trilogy and I’m eager to see what happens to Kat and her family.

Newsgirl, Liza Ketchum
I found this one in the YA alcove at Brattle – and bought it because I love the movie Newsies, and the book’s title brought it to mind. Amelia, age twelve, travels to California during the Gold Rush with her mother and her mother’s business partner. Desperate for money, she cuts off her hair, dresses as a boy and joins a gang of newsboys. She also accidentally goes up in a balloon, and finds her way home again, while doing a bit of growing up. Funny, historically fascinating and heartwarming.

I’m rereading Little Women now, for the first time in a while, as well as digging into more Maisie books and other literary gems. Tell me, what are you reading?

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I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.

Shocker, I know; but I think I’ve been doing it for a different reason than usual. I’ve been feeling a bit adrift since the holidays, as we returned from Texas, and as J and everyone else have headed back to work. I’ve had a lot of freelance work to do, but am still spending much of my time alone in our apartment. And the contrast between my solitude and the warm embrace of our dear ones in Abilene has seemed greater than ever.

So I’ve been reaching mostly for books about small, tightly knit communities: Creagan, Scotland; Big Stone Gap, Virginia; Avonlea and Carlisle and Glen St. Mary, Prince Edward Island; Deep Valley, Minnesota. The kind of small towns where you run into people you know at the grocery store or walking down the street. Places where a close circle of friends are in and out of each other’s daily lives, spending real time together, not just talking on the phone or via email. Places like the ones listed in the comments of Mike’s recent post, where he asked readers, “Do you have a Mayberry?”

Boston isn’t our Mayberry. Not even close. We still haven’t met many of our neighbors; we have to drive for a while to get to church or go to Nate and Abi’s or have dinner with other friends. I love walking around the city, especially the Beacon Hill area, but then it’s a 20-minute T ride back home. Here in Quincy, I can walk to the branch library and the drugstore and the post office, but I’m still not likely to run into anyone I know. We are – I am especially – still feeling our way, trying to find our place in this new community. In some ways it will never feel like Mayberry, or like Mitford, or like Abilene. That’s all right.

However, it’s still a bit lonely sometimes, and it’s comforting to know I can pick up a book and head to one of my favorite small towns whenever I need to. I don’t even have to buy an airplane ticket or fill up the car with gas. All I have to do is turn the page.

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Lucia, Lucia, Adriana Trigiani
I’ve been hearing about Trigiani’s writing for a while, found this paperback at Brattle, and decided it was a sign. And oh my. I’m hooked. I loved this story about Lucia, growing up in Greenwich Village, amid the color and glamour and tumultuous change of the fifties, sixties and afterward. Trigiani’s writing style is lush, her characters are real, and they win your heart. Love love love.

Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon
I reread this special Christmas installment in the Mitford series, wanting to find some of the peace that infuses it, as Father Tim restores a special Nativity scene, and his friends in Mitford prepare for Christmas in their own ways. My favorites are Hope Winchester’s Christmas tree, a beacon of hope above her bookstore, and Uncle Billy Watson’s homemade gift for his cantankerous wife, which turns her into a beaming little girl again. (Sniff. Sniff.) Wonderful.

Viola in Reel Life, Adriana Trigiani
This is Trigiani’s young adult debut, following snarky, artsy Viola to boarding school in the Midwest. I liked her relationships with her roommates, though I found Viola herself a bit self-absorbed at times. (I guess we all are, at fifteen.) She reminds me of Tibby from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Good fun, but I like Trigiani’s other books (adult fiction? women’s fiction?) better.

Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
Not a very Christmassy read, but I’d been waiting for the hold to be filled at the library for weeks. This was the most gruesome of the three books; Collins seems almost casual at times about all the bloodshed. And, well, I don’t like Katniss that much by the end, though I know she’s been through intense trauma. I’m not sure exactly how I would have changed the ending – but – I was disappointed. (Still worth reading, for those of you who haven’t.)

Very Valentine, Adriana Trigiani
More delights in Greenwich Village, this time at the Angelini Shoe Company, which makes custom wedding shoes and makes me want to go visit. I love Valentine, the peacemaking middle child and maiden auntie who carries everybody’s burdens. And I love her Gram, the elegant Teodora Angelini, and their whole crazy Italian family. The first book in a charming trilogy.

The Golden Road, L.M. Montgomery
I picked this up because of the scenes near the beginning – Christmas at the King farmstead and New Year’s resolutions around the kitchen fireside. But I wound up rereading the whole thing, for the first time in years. Sweet, wholesome, good fun. Oh, how I love all things Montgomery.

The Story Girl, L.M. Montgomery
Yes, I know these are out of order. But I kept thinking about the crowd of King children and their friends, so I picked up this prequel to The Golden Road again, and was as charmed by it as ever.

Brava, Valentine, Adriana Trigiani
The second book in a charming trilogy. (At least, I’m sure Book 3 will be charming – it hasn’t been published yet.) I loved watching Valentine grow through this book, learning how to deal with her brother and new business partner, Alfred, and learning how to open herself up to love. I love her sisters and mother and her hilarious best friend, Gabriel, and I love that all the chapter titles are Frank Sinatra songs.

Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
I needed a comforting story I could live in on our long trip to Texas, where we spent Christmas with my in-laws and then headed to Abilene. I never get tired of this story. Ever.

Accompanied by Angels: Poems of the Incarnation, Luci Shaw
A collection of breathtaking, fresh poetry on Christ’s breaking into this world – such gorgeous meditations on his annunciation, birth, life, death and rising. I’d buy this to read again each year. Lovely and thought-provoking – which I expect from Shaw.

Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear
Book Club Girl is hosting a read-along of this series on her blog (you can still sign up!), and I picked this first book up at my beloved Brattle. It’s a compelling mystery, but also a thoughtful portrait of England during and after World War I. And the story of one woman’s struggle to rise above her station (she starts out as a maid, but studies at Girton College, Cambridge) and to find her way to the work she’s meant to do. I was fascinated. And am already working on the sequel.

What have you been reading lately?

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