Hot Reads November 2015

01Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew

Tannie Maria (Tannie meaning Auntie, the respectful Afrikaans address for a woman older than you) is a middle-aged widow who likes to cook—and eat. She shares her culinary love as a recipe columnist for the local paper—until The Gazette decides its readers are hungrier for advice on matters of the heart rather than ideas for lunch and dinner.

Tannie Maria doesn’t like the change, but soon discovers she has a knack—and a passion—for helping people. Of course she shares her recipes and culinary advice whenever she can! Assisting other people with their problems, Tannie Maria is eventually forced to face her own issues, especially when the troubles of those she helps touch on the pain of her past, like a woman desperate to escape her abusive husband.

When the woman is murdered, Tannie Maria becomes dangerously entwined in the investigation, despite the best efforts of one striking detective determined to keep her safe. Suddenly, this practical, down-to-earth woman is involved in something much more sinister than perfecting her chocolate cake recipe . . .

02The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

A canny young woman is struggling to survive by perpetrating various levels of mostly harmless fraud. On a rainy April morning, she is reading auras at Spiritual Palms when Susan Burke walks in. A keen observer of human behavior, our unnamed narrator immediately diagnoses beautiful, rich Susan as an unhappy woman eager to give her lovely life a drama injection. However, when the psychic visits the eerie Victorian home that has been the source of Susan’s terror and grief, she realizes she may not have to pretend to believe in ghosts anymore. Miles, Susan’s teenage stepson, doesn’t help matters with his disturbing manner and grisly imagination. The three are soon locked in a chilling battle to discover where the evil truly lurks and what, if anything, can be done to escape it.

03The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro

When Alizée Benoit, a young American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her arts patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends and fellow WPA painters, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie’s auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?

Entwining the lives of both historical and fictional characters, and moving between the past and the present, The Muralist plunges readers into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures both the inner workings of New York’s art scene and the beginnings of the vibrant and quintessentially American school of Abstract Expressionism.

As she did in her bestselling novel The Art Forger, B. A. Shapiro tells a gripping story while exploring provocative themes. In Alizée and Danielle she has created two unforgettable women, artists both, who compel us to ask: What happens when luminous talent collides with unstoppable historical forces? Does great art have the power to change the world?

04Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon

Carly Simon is a household name. She was a staple of the 70’s and 80’s Billboard charts and famously married to James Taylor with whom she has two children, but there’s so much more to the story behind the headlines and famously cryptic lyrics. Boys in the Trees is a rhapsodic, beautifully compelling memoir of a young woman’s coming of age amid the glamorous literati and intelligentsia of Manhattan (her father was Richard Simon, co-founder of Simon & Schuster), the pain of loss and betrayal early on in life, and the strength to leave that all behind and forge a path of art, music and love in the golden age of folk and rock.

At once an insider’s look into a life lived in the spotlight, a lyric reflection on a particular time in our culture’s history, and a beautiful memoir about the pains and joys of love and art as soaring as Patti Smith’s Just Kids, and shocking as Keith Richard’s Life, Boys in the Trees is the story Carly Simon has long been waiting to tell the world.

05Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade & Don Yaeger

Only weeks after Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli ordered the flagstaff at the American consulate chopped down. It was an act of war—and a personal challenge to Jefferson. He had refused to pay off the pirates who ran Tripoli, and he now had to decide if the fledgling United States would stand up to the kidnapping of American ships and sailors.

Though inclined toward diplomacy, Jefferson saw the need for force after the USS Enterprize engaged with a better-armed Tripolitan ship on the prowl for Americans. The pirate commander resorted to treachery (twice hauling down its flag as if to surrender, only to resume firing again once the Enterprize held its fire).

Jefferson ordered a troop surge, dispatching warships to protect American shipping in the Mediterranean. The tiny American flotilla—with three frigates representing half of the U.S. Navy’s top-of-the-line ships—had some success in blockading the Barbary coast. But that success came to an end when the USS Philadelphia ran aground in Tripoli harbor and was captured.

Kilmeade and Yeager recount the dramatic events building up to this little-known war and the heroics that led to its resolution. They tell the story of a twenty-five-year-old sailor named Stephen Decatur, who sailed into the enemy harbor, his boat disguised as a Maltese merchant ship. He stole aboard the Philadelphia and sets her afire before escaping amid a torrent of enemy gunfire.

Less successful was a failed attack on Tripoli harbor, but William Eaton’s daring attack on the port of Derna regained ground. He led a detachment of Marines on a five-hundred-mile trek across the desert to surprise the port. His strategy worked, and an American flag was raised in victory on foreign soil for the first time. A peace treaty was quickly signed.

Few remember Decatur and Eaton today, but their legacy lives on in the opening lines of the Marines Hymn: “…to the shores of Tripoli / we fight our country’s battles / in the air, on land, and sea.” This story of bravery, diplomacy, and battle on the high seas deserves to be told in full.

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