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A blue –collar southern drama, a satire on organic food for babies, and an incredible partnership between the author of the Lemony Snicket books and a brilliant illustrator 

 

   A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

She wrote "gods in Alabama" which pleased and surprised me a few years ago so I was delighted to see another. Very blue-collar southern with language like "mommishy mom" which might have put me off if I hadn't loved the characters so much. There's Ginny, aka Big, a matriarch at 45, her daughter Liza at 30 with a stroke (!), and her daughter Mosey (for Moses, aka Little) at 15. Trouble comes at regular intervals for this family and with the discovery of infant bones under the willow tree, things get really fraught. These women have lots of smarts and determination and the ending satisfies though the suspense along the way is considerable. Lots of local color.

      Julia's Child by Sarah Pinneo

On of my "bon-bon" books, when I just want easy entertainment. Fertile field for satire: organic food for little ones, cooked up in the heart of NYC. Julia is idealistic and gutsy. She needs to be. It's a tough, mercenary world out there and her little business staggers through a minefield of competitors, regulations, and economic realities. Two little kids add a challenge. A great husband helps but the marriage and family finances are strained to the max. There's a broadly funny side-story about their small Vermont farm with a dreamy hippie growing a sparse and funky crop. Plus the looming Evil Developer. This book did the trick--it diverted me for an evening.

   Why We Broke Up      by Daniel Handler

A teen book , deep in the painful, hilarious, overwrought territory of adolescent heartbreak. Handler is a clever genius of sorts. He can fabricate wild yet conceivable names for bands, hangouts, foodstuffs, and an entire canon of old films complete with titles, plots, and stars. Min (short for Minerva, goddess of wisdom, as she'll tell everyone) ends up with an improbable boyfriend, Ed. He's a hot basketball star. They have little in common other than hormones and immense curiosity. When she dumps him she also dumps off the box that holds all the mementos of their rocky courtship. And that's where illustrator Maira Kalman comes in. Each object gets the exquisite Kalman treatment: lush and detailed watercolors in which, for instance, a very ordinary comb becomes numinous. It's so appropriate because in real life, such talismans hold an incredible charge. As in other Handler books, I get a little tired of his endless inventiveness but as I kept reading, the story grew on me and I ended up deeply immersed and glad I persevered.

back next week...

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