Foodie Fiction Reviews | March 15, 2013

Brown, Eli. Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Farrar. Jun. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780374123666. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781466836976. F

Brown’s second novel (after the Fabri Prize-winning The Great Days ) is a coming-of-age tale even though the protagonist is middle-aged chef Owen Wedgwood. Quietly cooking for his wealthy, influential employer, Wedgwood maintains a sheltered and happy existence. His world is turned upside down, however, when he is kidnapped and forced to cook for a wild and beautiful pirate, Capt. Hannah Mabbot. Mabbot is a brutal killer with a grudge against the notorious Brass Fox, and the newly nicknamed “Wedge” reluctantly becomes a bystander to her crimes. Preoccupied with cooking gourmet meals for pirates using rat meat and moldy potatoes, Wedge learns more about the world and himself. VERDICT Brown delivers an exotic and enjoyable historical novel about a cautious man forced to live “a thousand lifetimes.” Historical fiction fans and general readers will find his adventures a fascinating quick read. [See Prepub Alert, 12/5/12; also selected as a notable spring title in “Editors’ Spring Picks,” LJ 2/15/13—Ed.] —Jennifer Funk, McKendree Univ. Lib., Lebanon, IL

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewGoodin, Maria. From the Kitchen of Half Truth. Sourcebooks. Apr. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781402279485. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402279492. F

Meg May was raised on intricately woven, beautifully told fantasies. Her mother, Valerie, didn’t leave room in their lives for differentiating between truth and fiction, and Meg learns on a hard day at school that her memories aren’t accepted as reality. Stories her mother has told throughout her life that make up her history are ridiculed by classmates and teachers. She burns with shame and confusion, and has a sudden distrust of her mother’s world of fancy. Grownup Meg, now a scientist, moves home when Valerie becomes ill and refuses to acknowledge it. In reality, she’s dying; in her persistent fantasy world, she carries on cooking, baking, and telling elaborate stories to Meg and their new gardener, Ewan, while Meg chips away at the past until she unearths pieces that begin to make sense. As Valerie’s illness progresses, Meg must decide whether reality, however harsh, is more important than comfort. VERDICT An impressive and heartfelt debut that will appeal to many readers, this charming and sensitive mother/daughter story captures the struggle between protection and isolation. —Julie Kane, Sweet Briar College Lib., VA

Palmer, Liza. Nowhere but Home. Morrow. Apr. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780062007476. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062101488. F

Queen Elizabeth Wake is a chef on the run from her painful past growing up in North Star, a tiny town in east Texas. She’s worked all over the United States and has just been fired from her latest job at a hotel restaurant in New York City. Now Queenie must return to North Star to live with her older sister Merry Carole. The Wake sisters had it tough growing up because of their mother, Brandi-Jacques Wake. BJ was famous for two things, her cooking and her habit of dating other women’s husbands, the latter resulting in BJ’s murder by her best friend. Queenie takes a job at the local prison cooking last meals for prisoners on death row. Her work leads Queenie to exorcise the ghosts of her past and get closure from her mother’s murderer. VERDICTPalmer ( More Like Her ) uses details about cooking and high school football to create a vivid picture of small-town Texas. The characters are fully realized and the setting authentic. This appetizing, colorful tale of a young woman finding herself and finding love again will please readers who enjoy smart chick lit. —Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Br azoria Cty. Lib. System, TX

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewSoffer, Jessica. Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots. Houghton Harcourt. Apr. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780547759265. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780547759289. F

T his powerful debut sheds light on the meaning and power of family, whether its members are blood-related or “created” by nonrelatives. Food is what strengthens relationships here, particularly the search for specific recipes. Young, troubled Lorca lives in New York City; her distracted mother, a chef, is rather uninterested in Lorca’s psychological troubles; her estranged father lives in New Hampshire. Researching how to prepare an unusual meal, Lorca feels she can win her mother’s interest and love if she can prepare this delicacy. She meets Victoria, who once owned a restaurant specializing in Iraqi meals. Their cooking lessons lead to confided morsels of their own pasts. However, it is not just the love of food but understanding and acceptance that help to make this such a lovely novel. VERDICT Readers of domestic novels like Julia Glass’s The Whole World Over or Joanne Harris’s Chocolat will enjoy this charming book, which is as hopeful as its title. [See Q&A with Soffer on p. 102—Ed.] —Andrea Tarr, Corona P.L., CA