Four Favorite Books for February

Let us all prepare to dab our eyes, blow a kiss, and bid a fond farewell to February 2014 — the fastest little month in the year.

But before we do, let’s pause a moment to enjoy my Four Favorite Books for February. (You thought I was going to forget didn’t you?!)

Be forewarned however, my choice for Fiction comes with a nonspecific Spoiler Alert — i.e. I am going to tell you a little bit about what I DON’T like about this book first.

My choice for February’s Favorite Fiction (triple F, it must be good!) is Bel Canto, a novel by Ann Patchett.

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OK, here’s what I don’t like. I don’t like that the whole time you are reading this lyrically written story and the magically realistic spell is being cast, seducing you into believing with your whole heart that it could happen, and beauty and truth will prevail, your whole heart is actually growing heavier and heavier with the dread that it couldn’t, and they won’t. (Hearts aren’t idiots.)

So what’s the story? In a small country somewhere in South America a lavish birthday party with opera’s most famous soprano as the entertainment is being held for a Japanese business man in the home of the country’s Vice President. As the lights go down after her final aria, all 250 guests are taken hostage by a small band of terrorists. The story is what happens, that you would not predict, and that makes perfect sense….if only.

I loved this book right up to the last chapter. If you are like me, and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook,

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read this book. You’ll love it. Just DON’T READ THE LAST CHAPTER. There’s no reason to. It’s just a story after all. Let the story live forever ending with the penultimate chapter. You will thank me for that. (And by the way if you haven’t read Farewell to Arms, or Cold Mountain, yet, I’d recommend the same course of action with those books as well.)

For my book of Interior Design I chose PAD, The Guide to Ultra-Living by Matt Maranian. Photographs by Jack Gould, Illustrations by Susan Tudor. Published by Chronicle Books, 2000.

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With sections titled Launch Pad (Introduction), Living Wombs, Sanitary Pads (Bathrooms), Crash Pads (Bedrooms) and Padios this book is a hoot. It actually features photos from the homes of eclectic artists like Jon Bok, and Dan Nadeau who decorates like “a tortured alcoholic homosexual priest with a passion for hunting.”

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The book also has a lot of helpful how-to instructions for the DIY crowd, including my favorite, the GARISH GARNISHES:

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Believe me, after almost finishing Bel Canto, and spending even a short month doing DIY projects, if you’re like me you are going to need your drink to have a garnish which is a meal in itself!

Which actually makes a nice segue to my February Cookbook: The ABC of Canapes from Peter Pauper Press, copyright 1953.

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I am actually getting to be very much like Cher’s character Mrs. Flax in Mermaids who served hors d’oeurves for every meal. Her cookbook was called Fun Finger Foods, but I’d bet it didn’t have the recipe for Idiot’s Delight. Not that I would actually cook Idiot’s Delight — it’s made with Accent, which I think is MSG, which makes my throat itch. That would be silly.

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Still, any cookbook that lets you swap out peanut butter for cheese gets attention at our house.

My final pick for February is the Art book, and my choice is Just Above the Mantelpiece: mass-market masterpieces, by Wayne Hemingway, published by Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2000.

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The author was born in 1961 on the NW coast of England, and raised in his Nan’s “art gallery” filled with mass market masterpieces including windmills, playful gnomes, coiffured poodles, velvet bulls, vintage car ashtrays, as well as the paintings of “unreasonably vibrant-skinned oriental beauties [who] fought for precious wall space with big-eyed animals and even bigger-eyed children.”

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He knows his subject upside and down, and has a true affection for it, as well as the artists who produced the work. It’s actually fascinating to follow the “big-eye” phenomena and to think about its expression now in Japanese anime and the Blythe doll craze, for example.

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Well that was fun! I’m off to have some of Jenny’s Mock Caviar and a cocktail with a Crystal Craze GummiSaver Kabob garnish for dessert. Happy reading!