Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a wonderful graphic novel about her lifelong relationship with cooking. Lucy grew up in a household where food was always central. Her mother ran a catering business, grew her own food, and operated a farmer’s market stall. Due to this constant exposure, Lucy based many of her memories on food. Huevos rancheros reminds her of her adventures in Mexico with her best friend. Croissants remind her of the time she backpacked through Europe with a close college friend. Sushi takes her back to her travels in Japan. Hot chocolate, burgers, and fries remind her of traveling Italy with her father. Baking sweets became her way of working through stressful times in her life. Accompanied by these recorded memories are delicious recipes that are fun to make. After reading this graphic novel, you will gain a new appreciation for the importance different types of food can have on impacting people’s lives.

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: Modern-day Mexico, Italy, Japan, New York, and Chicago.

Number of pages: 173

Themes: Family, friendship, travel, growing up, and cooking.

Is this good for a book club? This would be good for book clubs that enjoy books about food.

Objectionable content? There are discussions of alcohol, periods, and pornographic magazines.

Can children read this? Teenagers would enjoy the stories.

Who would like this? Anyone who loves food.

Rating: Five stars

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley is a funny and interesting biographical graphic novel about Lucy’s relationship with her boyfriend, John, and their wedding. This book takes you through how they met in college, moved in together, broke up, dated other people for three years, then abruptly became engaged.

Then, it takes you through a year of a DIY wedding. DIY: decorations (ALL the decorations), music playlist, ties for the men in the wedding party, photo booth, personalized gifts for every single guest, personalized gifts for everyone in the wedding party, and the list goes on. What they could not do themselves they worked out as cheaply as possible: a wedding dress that was on sale (it had pockets!), a backyard barn built for the occasion, and a friend of the family to cater everything.

There is also plenty of wedding stress. Lucy’s mother had her own list of guests to invite that mostly consisted of people who were strangers to Lucy and John, and it was longer than Lucy and John’s list of guests. The mother-of-the-bride also kept insisting on other things such as hiring a wedding planner without consulting the bride and groom, changing the size of the intended barn which forced the couple to remove guests from their invitation list, a band instead of their DIY playlist, and her badly-behaved dog walking down the aisle at the wedding. As Lucy and John worked through all of this stress, Lucy also reflected on what weddings used to be, what they have become, what marrying a man means for her bisexuality, and what she wants most in a marriage.

Genre: Non-fiction graphic novel

Setting: Most of the story takes place in modern-day Chicago and New York state.

Number of pages: 291

Is this good for a book club? Yes, if the club is willing to read a graphic novel. This book contains a lot of good discussion material about an important cultural milestone. It is also very quick to read, despite the number of pages.

Themes: The history of weddings, the modern wedding industry’s influence on what people think weddings are supposed to be (and what they are supposed to cost), how weddings can negatively impact people who are not heterosexual, what it means to have a good marriage, different types of relationships, and how wedding stress can bring out the worst in people.

Objectionable content: Suggestive themes, sexuality, and alcohol.

Can children read this? Teenagers would enjoy this.

Who would like this? Anyone who is preparing for their own wedding, preparing for someone else’s wedding, has gone through a wedding, thinks weddings are overrated, thinks weddings are wonderful, or enjoys examining the wedding industry.

Rating: Five stars

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Profile: Author Pat Conroy

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Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy is a New York Times best selling author who has written several acclaimed novels and memoirs.  Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini were made into Oscar nominated films.

Pat published his first book, The Boo, while attending Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina.  He became a teacher, but was fired for his unconventional teaching practices.  Pat never taught again, but published a memoir, The Water is Wide, exposing the racism and appalling conditions at the school.

The Great Santini, was published in 1976, and chronicles the author’s childhood and his ambivalent love for his violent and abusive father.  In 1980, The Lords of Discipline was published exposing The Citadel’s harsh military discipline and racism.  Prince of Tides was published in 1986, followed by Beach Music in 1995.  While on tour for this book, members of The Citadel’s basketball team came back into his life.  This inspired him to write My Losing Season.  His next novel, South of Broad, is a love letter to the city of Charleston.  This was followed by The Pat Conroy Cookbook and finally, My Reading Life in 2010.

His latest book is The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and Son Pat Conroy’s father, Donald Patrick Conroy, was a towering figure in his son’s life.  The Marine  Corpsfighter pilot was often brutal, cruel, and violent.   As the oldest of seven children who were dragged from military base to military base across the South, Pat bore witness to the toll his father’s behavior took on his siblings, and especially on his mother, Peg. She was Pat’s lifeline to a better world—that of books and culture. But eventually, despite repeated confrontations with his father, Pat managed to claw his way toward a life he could have only imagined as a child.
   Pat’s great success as a writer has always been intimately linked with the exploration of his family history. While the publication of The Great Santini brought Pat much acclaim, the rift it caused with his father brought even more attention. Their long-simmering conflict burst into the open, fracturing an already battered family. But as Pat tenderly chronicles here, even the oldest of wounds can heal. In the final years of Don Conroy’s life, he and his son reached a rapprochement of sorts. Quite unexpectedly, the Santini who had freely doled out physical abuse to his wife and children refocused his ire on those who had turned on Pat over the years. He defended his son’s honor.
The Death of Santini is at once a heart-wrenching account of personal and family struggle and a poignant lesson in how the ties of blood can both strangle and offer succor. It is an act of reckoning, an exorcism of demons, but one whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men, lending significance to one of the most-often quoted lines from Pat’s bestselling novel The Prince of Tides: “In families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.”

To watch an interview between ABC newsman Charlie Gibson and Pat Conroy, click here.

BOOK REVIEW: Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods

Sherryl Woods is a master storyteller when it comes to bringing small town living alive with warmth, emotions, and character-driven stories.

Sand Castle Bay is the first book in her new trilogy Ocean Breeze.  Emily Castle, the youngest of three sisters, is a very successful interior designer on the West Coast.  She left her life in North Carolina to follow her dreams.  She also left behind the man she loved, Boone Dorsett, a successful restaurateur.  A hurricane barreling straight towards her grandmother’s home has Emily heading back to North Carolina.

Neither Emily nor Boone were looking forward to seeing each other, but it was inevitable.  There is still a lot of built-up emotion between the two.  The hurt, betrayal, and misunderstandings of ten years ago still lingers.  The author weaves a captivating story of these two characters working out their differences to get a second chance at love.  There are complications thrown in – Boone’s young son and his ex in-laws – and trust issues, and it is all told with such attention to detail you feel you are part of the story.  The supporting characters draw you in and make you feel like part of the community.  The author beautifully sets the background for Emily’s two sisters and their stories, and I can’t wait to read the next two books in the trilogy.