Friday, November 26, 2021

21 Book Ideas for Holiday Gifts in 2021



Books make terrific presents! Here are 21 ideas for the people on your list: fiction, nonfiction, history, mystery, cookery, gardening, memoir, house books, pictures books, even a sticker book -- a little something for everyone!

These are my personal picks for book gift ideas. Links go to my Rose City Reader shop. You can find my other bookshop lists there too, like 15 Favorite Campus Novels, Winners of the Women's Prize, and others. Feel free to poke around!


In alphabetical order by author name:

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton. A smart, sexy rom-com perfect for holiday reading. Came out August 2021 and was shortlisted for the Wodehouse prize for best comic novel.

Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara. On the edges of a sprawling Indian city, a boy and his two friends set out to solve the mysterious disappearances of several children. This spellbinding mystery deserves the international praise heaped on it. It came out in 2020 and won the 2021 Edgar Award for best mystery novel.

Flavours of Greece by Rosemary Barron. Rosemary Barron started a cooking school in Greece in the 1980s and has been championing Greek food ever since. This redo of her best selling cookbook is a must-have for any lover of Greek food who wants to cook at home. Out June 2021 from Grub Street Cookery.

Dragons & Pagodas: A Celebration of Chinoiserie by Aldous Bertram. For the chinoiserie lover on your list, this one is a show stopper. Complete with Bertram's own chinoiserie–inspired watercolors and collages, Dragons & Pagodas is an irresistible confection. This coffee table gem came out September 2021.

Shoot the Moonlight Out by William Boyle. A neo-noir crime story set in pre-9/11 Brooklyn. Fans of Dennis Lehane or Michael Connelly will like this new rich, complex thriller. Out November 2021 from Pegasus Crime.

John Derian Picture Book by John Derian. This oversized coffee table book (11" x 14") came out in 2016 but is so gorgeous it deserves a spot on a gift list. Dreamy! 

John Derian Sticker Book by John Derian. For anyone who loves the world of John Derian -- or just loves really cool stickers! Came out November 2021.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Lawrence Ellsworth is in the middle of the first new translation of Dumas' "Musketeer Cycle" in over 100 years. His take is is fresh and lively, without the Victorian fustiness of earlier versions. If you thought the Musketeers were fun before, wait until you see how they swashbuckle now! The Three Musketeers is the first book in the series and came out in 2018. It's nice to start at the beginning. Four other books in the series are now available.

The Beauty of Home: Redefining Traditional Interiors by Marie Flanigan. New in 2021, this design book showcases Marie Flanigan's timeless, livable style. She also explains the elements needed to recreate her signature look. Can you tell I like pretty coffee table books? There's probably someone on your list who does too.

The Accidental Collector: An Artworld Caper by Guy Kennaway. This frolic through the world of art dealing and English villages is a freewheeling farce that will bring a smile with every page. It won the 2021 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction. 

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. Erik Larson writes nonfiction history books that read like the most exciting thriller novels, like The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake. This one came out in 2020 but there are probably people on your list who missed it, just like I did.

Island of Gold by Amy Maroney. Amy Maroney launched a new series with this rollicking adventure story set in 1454 on the Greek island of Rhodes and featuring a strong female protagonist. Great pick for teen readers and any fan of exciting historical fiction.

The Garden in Every Sense and Season: A Year of Insights and Inspiration from My Garden by Tovah Martin. These 100 essays are like spending a year in a garden with a good friend. This reissued edition of Martin's garden classic came out in March 2021 from Timber Press.

Murder at the Castle: An Iris Gray Mystery by M. B. Shaw. Portrait painter Iris Grey arrives at Pitfeldy Castle in the Scottish Highlands to paint a portrait ahead of a New Year's wedding. But she must solve a murder instead. This Christmas-themed cozy mystery is PERFECT for the holidays. It comes out December 7, 2021.

Double Blind by Edward St. Aubyn. As you would expect from the author of the Patrick Melrose novels, Double Blind is rich literary fiction reminiscent of Iris Murdoch or Kingsley Amis. Came out June 2021.

The Florentines: From Dante to Galileo: The Transformation of Western Civilization by Paul Strathern. This masterful examination of the history of Florence is a nice choice for the history buff or Italian lover on your list. Out July 2021 from Pegasus Books.

Hill House Living: The Art of Creating a Joyful Life by Paula Sutton. Paula Sutton is a stylist, writer, and creator of the popular blog, Hill House Vintage. She's like a British, Black, 21st Century Martha Stewart and this is my favorite coffee table book of 2021. Get it for anyone with a sense of vintage style and dreams of living in a Stately Home of England. Came out October 2021.

Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking: A Cookbook by Toni Tipton-Martin. Fresh and modern recipes with deep roots in African American culinary history. This award winning cookbook hit the shelves in November 2019 but is still getting attention. A solid building block for a cookbook library.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. The new book from the author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility. This came out in October 2021. Given the almost universal popularity of his earlier books, you probably can't go wrong with this one!

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci. Who doesn't like Stanley Tucci? For the foodie on your list, this one fits the bill. It came out in October and is getting all the buzz.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. Literary noir set in 1959 Harlem. This page turner of a caper shows Whitehead at his storytelling best. Came out September 2021.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

The French Chef in America: Julia Child's Second Act by Alex Prud'homme



What is something you are thankful for? 

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the USA, traditionally a time for reflection and gratitude. I'm grateful for my fellow book bloggers and all the bookish chats and connections we've had over the years!

One of my favorite things about book blogging is this weekly event, Book Beginnings on Fridays, where you can share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week. It doesn't have to be the book you are reading -- you can share a book that caught your fancy.


The sun shone brightly as three flags – the American, Japanese, and District of Columbia – riffled in a breeze.
-- from Chapter 1, "Dinner and Diplomacy," Part 1, "White House, Red Carpet."

Alex Prud'homme is the nephew of Julia Child's husband Paul. He co-wrote her autobiography, My Life in France, one of my favorite books. 

I wanted to Read The French Chef in America this week because it seemed like a good book for Thanksgiving week, a week filled with cooking, entertaining, and family time. And because I wanted to get another book in for Nonfiction November.  


Please add the link to your Book Beginnings post to the linky box below. If you post on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag so we can find each other. 

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Another fun Friday event is The Friday 56. Share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of your book, or 56% of the way through your e-book or audiobook, on this weekly event hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice.

The counters were raised to thirty-nine inches from the floor, to accommodate Julia’s height. One lasting regret for Julia was that she did not specify that the counters have a two-inch overhang, which makes it easy to scrape crumbs or chopped vegetables into a bowl held below the work surface.
I'm not six feet, two inches tall like Julia Child, but I'm five nine and Hubby is six three. We understand what Julia was thinking! We raised all our counters when we remodeled our kitchen and love them. I wish I had thought about the extra overhang for scraping bowls -- that's a great idea!  

Saturday, November 20, 2021

The Edgar Award for Best Novel -- LIST



2021 was the 75th anniversary of the Edgar Awards, the prestigious award for mystery writing from the  Mystery Writers of America. I'm working my way through the list of winners of the Edgar Award for Best Novel.

The Edgar Award is named in honor of Edgar Allen Poe, 19th Century American author of spooky stories. Watchful at Night by Julius Fast won the first Edgar Award, then in the category of "Best First Novel by an American Author." The "Best Novel" category has been around since 1954.

So far, I've read 32 of the 67 Best Novel winners, roughly half. Those I've read or are on my TBR shelf are noted in the list below.

2021 Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

2020 The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths

2019 Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

2018 Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke FINISHED

2017 Before the Fall by Noah Hawley FINISHED

2016 Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy FINISHED

2015 Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King FINISHED

2014 Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

2013 Live by Night by Dennis Lehane FINISHED

2012 Gone by Mo Hayder

2011 The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton

2010 The Last Child by John Hart

2009 Blue Heaven by C. J. Box FINISHED

2008 Down River by John Hart FINISHED

2007 The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin FINISHED

2006 Citizen Vince by Jess Walter (reviewed hereFINISHED

2005 California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker FINISHED

2004 Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin TBR SHELF

2003 Winter and Night by S.J. Rozan FINISHED

2002 Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker FINISHED

2001 The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale

2000 Bones by Jan Burke

1999 Mr. White's Confession by Robert Clark FINISHED

1998 Cimarron Rose by James Lee Burke TBR SHELF

1997 The Chatham School Affair by Thomas H. Cook (reviewed hereFINISHED

1996 Come to Grief by Dick Francis FINISHED

1995 The Red Scream by Mary Willis Walker TBR SHELF

1994 The Sculptress by Minette Walters

1993 Bootlegger's Daughter by Margaret Maron FINISHED

1992 A Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block FINISHED

1991 New Orleans Mourning by Julie Smith FINISHED

1990 Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke FINISHED

1989 A Cold Red Sunrise by Stuart M. Kaminsky

1988 Old Bones by Aaron Elkins TBR SHELF

1987 A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine TBR SHELF

1986 The Suspect by L.R. Wright

1985 Briar Patch by Ross Thomas

1984 La Brava by Elmore Leonard FINISHED

1983 Billingsgate Shoal by Rick Boyer FINISHED

1982 Peregrine by William Bayer

1981 Whip Hand by Dick Francis FINISHED

1980 The Rheingold Route by Arthur Maling

1979 The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett FINISHED

1978 Catch Me: Kill Me by William H. Hallahan TBR SHELF

1977 Promised Land by Robert B. Parker FINISHED

1976 Hopscotch by Brian Garfield

1975 Peter's Pence by Jon Cleary

1974 Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman FINISHED

1973 The Lingala Code by Warren Kiefer

1972 The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth TBR SHELF

1971 The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo FINISHED

1970 Forfeit by Dick Francis FINISHED

1969 A Case of Need by Micheal Crichton (as Jeffery Hudson) FINISHED

1968 God Save the Mark by Donald E. Westlake TBR SHELF

1967 The King of the Rainy Country by Nicolas Freeling TBR SHELF

1966 The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall FINISHED

1965 The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre FINISHED

1964 The Light of Day by Eric Ambler TBR SHELF

1963 Death and the Joyful Woman by Ellis Peters FINISHED

1962 Gideon's Fire by J.J. Marric

1961 The Progress of a Crime by Julian Symons

1960 The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin

1959 The Eighth Circle by Stanley Ellin

1958 Room to Swing by Ed Lacy

1957 A Dram of Poison by Charlotte Armstrong TBR SHELF

1956 Beast in View by Margaret Millar FINISHED

1955 The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler TBR SHELF

1954 Beat Not the Bones by Charlotte Jay TBR SHELF


This is an updated and refreshed version of the list I first posted in 2009. 


If you are also reading Edgar winners, please leave comments with related posts like your lists and reviews and I will list them here. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Past Tense by Lee Child -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



Does it feel like Thanksgiving snuck up on us this year? Hubby just texted me to say he got a turkey and left it in the fridge to thaw because it is frozen solid and I though, "What the heck? Thanksgiving is weeks away!" Then I remembered it's next week! Yikes!

I love Thanksgiving. There are only four of us this year, not a huge crowd like in years past. But I still love it. We will have way too much food, but that's OK because we all love leftovers. 

What's your favorite Thanksgiving dish? Mine's mashed potatoes, even if that is really boring! And pie, of course! 

For those of you who don't live in the US, I'm sorry you don't celebrate Thanksgiving because it is such a cozy holiday and it is the gateway to Christmas! 

But we still have a week to go, which means we have a week to share opening sentences here on Book Beginnings on Fridays. What are you reading in this week? Pease share the first sentence (or so) with all of us.


I'm reading something fun. I'm reading only entertaining books during the holidays. Nothing serious between now and 2022. 

Jack Reacher caught the last of the summer sun in a small town on the coast of Maine, and then, like the birds in the sky above him, he began his long migration south.

-- Past Tense by Lee Child. Are you a Lee Child fan? A Reacher Creature?

Past Tense is the 23rd novel in Lee Child's Jack Reacher series. I read the first book in the series, Killing Floor, back in 2004, when I was prepping for a mystery writers' conference where Child was the keynote speaker. Like many a lawyer, I harbored fantasies about writing mystery novels. My fantasies didn't last longer than that one conference. But Killing Floor blew my socks off. It was excellent. It is still my favorite Reacher book. 

My enthusiasm for the series has waned. The plots have become thin as the violence has increased. It looks like Child has gotten bored with them too. He wrote one more book after Past Tense called Blue Moon and then teamed up with his brother to tag team on two more. But he announced that he is turning over the series to his brother. I'll read Blue Moon and call it good. 


Add a link to your Book Beginnings on Fridays post in the Linky box below. If you post on social media, please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings. 

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Another weekly teaser event is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda's Voice where you can find details and add a link to your post. The idea is to share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book you are featuring. You can also find a teaser from 56% of the way through your ebook or audiobook.


From Past Tense:
Again Mark went quiet.

“He doesn’t mean it,” Patty said. “He’s upset, is all.”
It might get a bit creepy for my taste, but I'm determined to finish it. I'm reading it with my ears, so if things get too gruesome I'll concentrate on my pretty Thanksgiving dishes!


Monday, November 15, 2021

Brooklyn Neo-Noir, Burgundy Boats, and Big Sur -- MAILBOX MONDAY



So many books have come into my house since I last put up a Mailbox Monday post that I can't begin to catch up. Work and life got in the way of book blogging, which happens. Now when there is a short, perhaps illusory, lull between work insanity and the holidays, I'll try posting more often.

The three books that came into my home last week all look wonderful. I want to read them immediately! I will settle for as soon as reasonably possible. 

What books have come your way lately?


Shoot the Moonlight Out by William Boyle, brand new from Pegasus Books. At first glance, this new crime novel reminds me of a Brooklyn-themed Dennis Lehane book and looks amazing! It starts in 1996 with a run in with criminals that ends in tragedy then the main story takes place in the summer of 2001, right before 9/11. I like the slightly vintage vibe, the Brooklyn setting, and the whole neo-noir feeling. 

Hubby just read Lehane's blockbuster, Mystic River, so I gave Shoot the Moonlight Out to him to see how it stands up. Stand by for his report. 

To Live and Die in the Floating World by Stephen Holgate. This one came out last month from Blank Slate Press. It looks great! An American working on a tourist barge in France has an affair with a gangster's girlfriend. 

At first glance, that reminds me of a Burgundy-themed Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone. But since I may be the latest person to read that 1975 National Book Award winner, I may be the only one who can make the comparison.  

Read my review of Stephen Holgate about his earlier novel Tangier, here

On the Edge by Edward St. Aubyn, author of the Patrick Melrose novels. This is a reprint of his 1998 novel satirizing New Age goofiness, set in Big Sur. It's the first American edition of the book. 

I was excited to find this in a Little Free Library on my walk to work the other day. I read Lost for Words, his satirical novel about book awards that won the Wodehouse Award for best comic novel, which he wrote after Mother's Milk, the penultimate Patrick Melrose novel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize but didn't win. Lost for Words was brilliant and got me to binge the five Melrose novels, which were excellent, but so sad. 

Join other book lovers on Mailbox Monday to share the books that came into your house last week. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf, and Velvet of vvb32reads graciously host Mailbox Monday.

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