A pretty good cookbook struggling to get out of a bland novel.

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SECRETS OF THE TSIL CAFÉ

Averill’s debut provides a harmless enough occasion for the author to meditate philosophically on the sensual analogies between cooking, food, life and love.

At least Averill has interesting things to say about food and cooking. Among the main attractions here are the delicious-sounding recipes, complete with essays on the ingredients, for the “New World” cuisine (prepared exclusively from foods found in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus) of Robert Hingler’s Tsil Café in Kansas City, Missouri. Upstairs from the restaurant, Hingler’s wife Maria operates a catering business focused on “Old World,” primarily Mediterranean cuisine. Into this mix is born their son Wes, the narrator, who chronicles the usual restaurateurs’ frustrations, from ignorant suppliers and unreliable employees to hostile reviewers, as well his own tendency to burn his hands on scalding-hot pans. Meanwhile, there are also adulterous affairs for husband and wife. Forced to endure the hardship of seeing his parents fight, Wes arrives at the deep conclusion that both of them are imperfect and carry childhood traumas. His parents make up—their love is stronger, fresher, better, but scarred—and Wes realizes he’s got to make his own meal in life, with his own ingredients and his own dishes and . . . you get the picture. He has sex, goes to college, and works in another restaurant, all crucible experiences related in no particular order of significance. An unintentionally amusing moment occurs during Robert’s blowout 50th-birthday meal, a grand affair including roast guinea pig, dog tamales, and llama’s blood, when Maria’s visiting grandmother dies in the restaurant’s basement as the meal is about to begin. Dinner is served anyway, and Maria pops downstairs to be with the body “for a brief vigil between courses.” Occasionally Wes strikes a more-native-than-thou attitude, as when he describes Thanksgiving as “the Anglo ritual that consists of gorging the gut instead of communication with ancestors and gods.”

A pretty good cookbook struggling to get out of a bland novel.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14755-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: BlueHen/Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2001

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A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

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RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE

The much-loved royal romance genre gets a fun and refreshing update in McQuiston’s debut.

Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President Ellen Claremont, knows one thing for sure: He hates Henry, the British prince to whom he is always compared. He lives for their verbal sparring matches, but when one of their fights at a royal wedding goes a bit too far, they end up falling into a wedding cake and making tabloid headlines. An international scandal could ruin Alex’s mother’s chances for re-election, so it’s time for damage control. The plan? Alex and Henry must pretend to be best friends, giving the tabloids pictures of their bromance and neutralizing the threat to Ellen's presidency. But after a few photo ops with Henry, Alex starts to realize that the passionate anger he feels toward him might be a cover for regular old passion. There are, naturally, a million roadblocks between their first kiss and their happily-ever-after—how can American political royalty and actual British royalty ever be together? How can they navigate being open about their sexualities (Alex is bisexual; Henry is gay) in their very public and very scrutinized roles? Alex and Henry must decide if they’ll risk their futures, their families, and their careers to take a chance on happiness. Although the story’s premise might be a fantasy—it takes place in a world in which a divorced-mom Texan Democrat won the 2016 election—the emotions are all real. The love affair between Alex and Henry is intense and romantic, made all the more so by the inclusion of their poetic emails that manage to be both funny and steamy. McQuiston’s strength is in dialogue; her characters speak in hilarious rapid-fire bursts with plenty of “likes,” “ums,” creative punctuation, and pop-culture references, sounding like smarter, funnier versions of real people. Although Alex and Henry’s relationship is the heart of the story, their friends and family members are all rich, well-drawn characters, and their respective worlds feel both realistic and larger-than-life.

A clever, romantic, sexy love story.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31677-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Another success for the publishing phenom.

UNDER CURRENTS

An abused boy fights back, escapes, then returns as an attorney to his beloved hometown, but just as he’s falling in love with a transplanted landscaper, a series of attacks from shadowy enemies jeopardizes their happiness.

“From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect.” Which of course means that it wasn't. We're introduced to the horrifying Dr. Graham Bigelow, who beats his wife and, increasingly as the boy gets older, his son, Zane. On the night of Zane’s prom, a particularly savage attack puts him and his sister in the hospital, and his father blames Zane, landing him in jail. Then his sister stands up for him, enlisting the aid of their aunt, and everything changes, mainly due to Zane’s secret diaries. Nearly 20 years later, Zane leaves a successful career as a lawyer to return to Lakeview, where his aunt and sister live with their families, deciding to hang a shingle as a small-town lawyer. Then he meets Darby McCray, the landscaper who’s recently relocated and taken the town by storm, starting with the transformation of his family’s rental bungalows. The two are instantly intrigued by each other, but they move slowly into a relationship neither is looking for. Darby has a violent past of her own, so she is more than willing to take on the risk of antagonizing a boorish local family when she and Zane help an abused wife. Suddenly Zane and Darby face one attack after another, and even as they grow ever closer under the pressure, the dangers become more insidious. Roberts’ latest title feels a little long and the story is slightly cumbersome, but her greatest strength is in making the reader feel connected to her characters, so “unnecessary details” can also charm and engage.

Another success for the publishing phenom.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20709-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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