From My Bookshelf – Featuring Harper Lee and J. Ryan Stradel


By Lynn Willoughby

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

This book got a lot of hype prior to its release, so in anticipation, I reread “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It is a great coming of age book, and hasn’t changed since I first read it in high school. Then, the new release. What a disappointment!

It too is appropriate for teens, although the characters have aged, Scout is now 26. However, there was NO story. Lots of description, the aging characters stayed true, but there was just no plot, no tension, no thrill, no beginning, middle or ending. Everyone, including Atticus, has their flaws. We see racism, segregation, life in a small southern town in the 1950s and 1960s, but after reading about a third of the book, I skimmed, then skipped to the ending.

I was just really disappointed. After reading other reviews, some were kinder, but many felt as I did.

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

Kitchens of the Great Midwest – J. Ryan Stradel

This is a debut novel and is the life story of Eva. We follow her from birth, to her troubled teens, her Goth years, her leaving school to support her father, to her success as the “iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation…” This dinner has five courses – with wine pairing, is ever changing both in menu and location. It take at least four years to get a seat once you are on the reservation list, and cost $5000 per person!

Each chapter reveals the connection of a character and a menu item, plus how they relate to Eva. Some chapters were ever so much better than others that it almost felt like it was not one person doing the writing. What I just didn’t get was the downright cruelty of Eva’s parents, the miserableness of so many characters in the book and their even worse lives. Characters didn’t seem to grow to become more adult or to ever get over the road blocks thrown at them. No one ever overcame the poverty, illness, early parental deaths and family conflict. They never stopped speaking like teenagers, using all curse words in every sentence.

Most characters were not at all likeable. The narrative jumped around from male to female perspective, from inside Eva’s mind to people who had never heard of her. The continuous reference to music and bands was unnecessary and way outside of my comfort zone. The only name I ever recognized was Jimmy Buffet!

Did I like it? No. However, young adults may feel more empathy for the characters and the music. I do think that Stradal’s idea of one chapter, one character, one dish was interesting.

Who Knew?

Chocolate Habeneros score up to 577,000 on the Scoville heat unit scale. Jalapenos score a measely 53.