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In her bestselling memoirs Ruth Reichl has long illuminated the theme of how food defines us, and never more so than in her dazzling fiction debut about sisters, family ties, and a young woman who must finally let go of guilt and grief to embrace her own true gifts.

Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine's deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the "Delicious Guarantee"-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn't know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine's library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu's letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu's courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love.

380 pages, Hardcover

First published May 6, 2014

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About the author

Ruth Reichl

64 books2,031 followers
Ruth Reichl is an American food writer, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and culinary editor for the Modern Library.
Born to parents Ernst and Miriam (née Brudno), she was raised in New York City and spent time at a boarding school in Montreal. She attended the University of Michigan, where she met her first husband, the artist Douglas Hollis. She graduated in 1970 with a M.A. in art history.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,789 reviews
Profile Image for Jenne.
1,086 reviews675 followers
May 9, 2014
oookaaaayyy, well let me just start out by saying that I love Ruth Reichl. Garlic and Sapphires is one of my favorite books ever. Genius. Lovely. Gorgeous.
However. This novel. I mean, it's definitely a "write what you know" kind of thing, about a woman who works for a venerable food magazine that suddenly ceases publication. Fine. Gotta start somewhere.
But it's just...okay, so the main character is a genius food person with a miraculous palate! but she doesn't cook! because of her Tragic Past! and she thinks she is USELESS but everyone she meets loves her! and gives her free chocolate and cheese and bakes her souffles and whatnot. OH and there's a gruff but kind boss, and a different gruff but kind boss, and a fabulous older gay man who mentors her and gives her a makeover (of the kind which is like, just take off those glasses and get a haircut and stop wearing those baggy clothes which are covering up your perfect figure which you have despite all the free chocolate BUT I DIGRESS) Anyway there's also a SECRET LIBRARY and a MYSTERIOUS PUZZLE and a HEARTWARMING WWII STORY and a HOT ARCHITECT and an UNDERGROUND RAILROAD THING and not one but TWO colorful Italian families. and a line of dialogue about rose petals that was so incredibly hokey that I laughed extremely hard in the break room at work and had to try to explain to my coworkers about how the people had sex for the first time in a SECRET LIBRARY. Oh and also she is secretly a FASHION GENIUS too! Because being only one kind of genius is just not enough.
On the other hand, it was a pretty fun and fast read, and if you're looking for a souffle-type novel, you could do worse! Plus, so many AWESOME OLD LADIES, which are my favorite.
Profile Image for Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews.
1,082 reviews1,412 followers
June 15, 2014
Recipes, libraries, letters, books, food, authentic Italian butcher and cheese shops, aromas you can smell through the pages, and marvelous characters. What more can a reader ask for?

DELICIOUS is a reader's and a cook's paradise. DELICIOUS is one wonderful page of words after another.

The magic never stopped as Ms. Reichl introduced the reader to her believable, lovable characters and to mouthwatering food. Billie and every single character will steal your heart. The characters just had something that pulled you in.

When Billie finds letters in the library of a now defunct magazine company that were sent to a famous chef, Mr. Beard, from 13-year old Lulu during WWII, the book continues with the same mood of enjoying life, enjoying food, and discovering oneself. If you love old buildings from the 1800's, you will be in for another surprise.

These letters became the basis of DELICIOUS and also created a mystery about who Lulu was. The letters were used by a librarian as a fun game of finding clues that were very cleverly hidden and ones that led to the next clue...was the game ever over? If Lulu were still alive, Billie knew what a wonderful treat it would be to meet her.

If you want to be entertained and have your taste buds taken to the highest level, be sure to read DELICIOUS. You will also have the pleasure of learning how to face hidden fears in your life and share your life with those you should share it with.

DELICIOUS is unlike any book I have read. It grabs hold of you and takes you along for a "delicious" adventure and a very pleasurable reading ride.

My rating of DELICIOUS is a taste tempting, entertaining, and loving 5/5.

Don't miss reading DELICIOUS. It is a beautiful, delightful book.​

I received this book free of charge and without compensation from the publisher in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Jacqie.
1,653 reviews80 followers
March 4, 2014
I've loved all the non-fiction that Ruth Reichl has written and thought her first novel would be a treat. Sadly, it seems that very different skills are needed in writing fiction vs. non-fiction.

Our main character is a cipher. We get hints about a tragic past, but because we can't know what happened, we can't really know the character. Plus, she's young, has curly blonde hair and violet eyes, and the most amazing palate ever. Whoever meets her fall in love with her and wants to be her friend, and gives her privileges no one else has ever had. Plus, she and her sister started a bakery when they were children and it was ultra, ultra-successful. It was all a bit much.

And strangely, the writing felt very stilted. I stopped before we got into the WWII/James Beard letters, but I'm afraid those might fall into the twee trap of the rest of the book.


The tragic secret? She can't bake anymore because her sister died delivering a cake and she feels that she should have been the one delivering it. Here is the passage:

...we all turned to watch her cross the driveway, her eyes focused on the two little figures on the cake cradled in her arms. She never saw the Jaguar come barreling around the curve. I doubt she heard the squeal as Beverly's brother slammed on the brakes and rubber shimmied over tar. Then Genie was up in the air, the cake above her, pinned against the sky. And then they were both falling, the motion so slow it seemed she would never reach the ground.

So that's what happened. The only cake delivery hit and run in history.
913 reviews409 followers
July 8, 2014
Sorry guys -- yet another curmudgeonly review. I just couldn't stay interested in this story. Ruth Reichl is a seasoned writer, but definitely not a novelist.

Somewhere on the TV tropes website where it lists all the various subcategories of Mary Sues, there's probably a name for that wish fulfillment main character who's awkward and self-doubting but instantly loved by all who meet her (despite the absence of any notable personality), and needs only to take off her glasses and change her hairstyle/wardrobe to go from ugly duckling to beautiful swan. That was this main character, Billie (a.k.a. Wilhemina) Breslin.

As if we weren't already solidly in the land of cliches, Billie has a Unique Gift as well as a Secret Trauma which challenges her ability to use this gift. The Unique Gift is a palate which allows her to correctly identify all kinds of obscure ingredients as well as advise cooks on how to make their foods even more perfect. But because of the Secret Trauma, Billie simply can't bring herself to cook.

We first learn this when Billie, having dropped out of school, applies for a job at a gourmet magazine. Um, interesting choice for someone who's thrown into trepidation at the thought of cooking. Billie is desperate for the job and just dying to write, but panics when asked to cook as part of her interview process. Well, naturally Billie's creation just wows the entire jaded magazine staff despite her panic. Still, we're reminded repeatedly that Billie is afraid to cook and continually refusing to tell any of her earnestly supportive friends the reason for this. I stopped feeling any kind of tension about the secret pretty early on and chose to read some spoiler-containing goodreads reviews to see what the heck this was already, and let me tell you, I would have had to strain my already suspended disbelief to the breaking point to buy this traumatic experience as one that would result in fear of doing any and all cooking.

Other issues: the magazine Billie works at has a guarantee that if one of their recipes doesn't come out well when followed as directed, they'll refund you the cost of your ingredients. Part of Billie's job is to field calls from these disgruntled cooks, who invariably have failed to follow the recipe's directions in some glaringly obvious way. These callers tend to be old ladies who are clearly meant to charm the reader with their cuteness; I just kept rolling my eyes. And finally, although I love to cook and do have a certain amount of food geekiness to me, it seems I don't actually care that much about food. Certainly not nearly as much as Ruth Reichl does, or her characters. The food raptures, well-written though they were, quickly got boring.

It's pretty clear that romance is in store for Billie (how could it not be? Is there a cliche we've left out?), but I decided to just give up. You know it's bad when you're driving to work and would rather jump around among mediocre radio half-songs than keep listening to your book.
Profile Image for Kelly Syms.
5 reviews
May 11, 2014
Place this one firmly in the "beach read" category. The prose is juvenile, especially for such an esteemed non-fiction writer. I love Ruth Reichl's food writing, and adored her editorial tenure at Gourmet, but her first novel is badly in need of an honest editor. You'll find unrealistic, shallow dialogue, cliched themes and flat characters on the page.

There are brief moments of pleasure, mainly concerning glorious descriptions of meals and artisanal food. Some reviewers feel that these moments are unwarranted adjective explosions, but I can't help but feel that they are one of the sole redeeming qualities of a very rough first novel.

I believe our author had only the best intentions in displaying a soul-searching character arc with Billie Breslin, but I found myself feeling like she was simply oblivious and rather pathetic. Her golden palate was rarely put to use in anything but the most obvious of instances, and to little effect on the page. I wanted to find something to like about her, but was left bereft.

The second point of redemption through out the novel was the correspondence between Lulu and James Beard. Although light, it was gently heartwarming and an interesting look into the WWII era United States.

I also must mention the positively ludicrous character of Sammy. I was desperate to love him as Billie's worldly, verbose and slightly flamboyant mentor. Instead, I was met with a wall of jumbled prose that was so unbelievably overwrought I could feel the author struggling to string the dialogue together with a dictionary and thesaurus beside her. It was unfortunately laughable and a huge turn off. I found myself rolling my eyes every time Sammy opened his mouth.

If Ruth Reichl's talent as a non-fiction writer is any indication of her potential as a novelist, I do hope she continues to make forays into fiction, with the proviso that she finds a few brutally honest friends in the publishing world to guide her.

1.5 stars, recommended only if you love food writing and are invested in the works of the author.
Profile Image for Carol.
834 reviews499 followers
July 27, 2014
The question in my mind was "Could Ruth Reichl, food editor, restaurant critic and memoir writer pull off a cozy novel?" You bet she can and it was, well, delicious.

Like Reichl, Billie Breslin transplants herself from the streets of California to the bustle of New York where she is hired as assistant editor for a Gourmet lookalike magazine named Delicious. Billie California bags are packed with a sadness of spirit not fully explained initially. Part One finds Billie settling in as she goes about the day to day business of her job, making many new friends and coming into her own. I was enjoying this storyline and could have stayed here when wham, Delicious closes, not unlike Rechl's own experience at Gourmet. Though her friends at the magazine must move on, Billie is asked to stay and continue to man the Delicious Guarantee hotline, taking complaints about recipe disasters and providing their money back guarantee. The story goes in a new direction. With time on her hands in the now empty Timbers Mansion Billie discovers not only a secret room but a treasure trove of correspondence dating back to the forties between James Beard and a spunky teen trying to survive the realities of a country at war and rationing.

Reading Delicious is like a food tour of New York, and we are privy to its delicacies. If any book I've read this year can be called feel good Delicious is it. Take a dash of mystery, a sprinkling of romance, a pinch of history, throw in a handful of good recipes, a hint of name dropping, mix them all together, taste. and serve a perfectly enjoyable read with just a touch of memoir thrown in for good measure.

Yes, I'm going to try the gingerbread but forget the soufflé. Call that a fear of falling.
Profile Image for Chris.
557 reviews
February 15, 2016
Most anyone who knows me, knows that Ruth Reichl is at the top of my favorite food writer list. So when I was given the opportunity to receive an advanced readers copy of her newest book and first work of fiction, Delicious!, I jumped at the chance! (A big thank you to Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman!)

Delicious! is custom-written for people like me, someone who loves food and loves to read about it. Delicious! is a longtime food magazine in the vein of Gourmet, and we meet our protaganist, Billie Breslin, just as she is hired as the assistant to the editor. When the magazine suddenly seizes publication, Billie is kept on to answer the Delicious! guarantee to readers; if readers have a problem with a recipe, the magazine will return their money for the ingredients. It’s here that Billie enters the magazine’s library, where she comes upon letters written by a young girl from Akron named Lulu to James Beard during World War II.

This book has it all, food, food, and more food, a touch of mystery, intrigue, and romance, plus Reichl’s classic descriptions of food, clothing, architecture. I know I love a book when it is hard to put down and even harder to do anything else but read! I let a lot of things go; Lulu’s letters didn’t sound like they were written by a 12-year-old, the requisite ugly duckling turning into a swan, and just enjoyed the ride. And I love that there was a nod to Bonnie Slotnick of Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks, a bookstore in New York City that is only cookbooks. And I have a feeling I'm going to be making a soufflé and a pan of gingerbread very soon!
Profile Image for Kwoomac.
836 reviews37 followers
March 25, 2014
First reads. I won, I won, I won! I haven't won anything in like 4 years!

So, full disclosure. I received this book through Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an unbiased review. This is the first novel by food critic Ruth Reichl. It's a fun story of a young woman who makes her way to NYC to work for a food magazine (and to run away from her painful past). Her new life is filled with adventures. I got a kick out of the happily-ever-after tone. Anything that could go right did. Just a lot of fun. If you're in the mood for a light story with lots of foodie stuff in it, I recommend this one. Definitely would be a great beach read.
Profile Image for J.
268 reviews
April 24, 2014
I won this book in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Ruth Reichl is a well known author, so I had high hopes for this, her first novel. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

A young woman drops out of college and moves to New York, where she gets a job as an assistant to the editor of Delicious, a highly regarded food magazine, not unlike Gourmet , the now defunct magazine at which Ms. Reichl was editor. The protagonist, Wilhemina "Billie" Breslin, has a unique gift. One taste of anything and she knows what ingredients are in it and is capable of recreating them exactly. Despite this, Billie is adamant that she doesn't want to cook, even though we know from the outset that she used to.

The plot is more than a bit reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada , right down to the gay older male co-worker who helps remake the "couldn't care less about my appearance" Billie. It's understandable that Ms. Reichl, the ultimate "foodie," would include descriptions of food in the novel, but sometimes her need to do this reaches levels where I'm not quite sure it isn't intended to be a parody. When the characters are eating food and describing it, this makes sense. In other contexts, it becomes annoying.

This writing style carries over into overly detailed descriptions of clothing and accessories and sometimes even people's physical appearances.

His olive skin, emerald eyes, and chiseled cheekbones gave him the languid, unshaven arrogance of a model, but he wore quirky old clothes, which softened the impact of his beauty.

(In my opinion,not only is the prose cloying, the sentence makes no sense.)
Joan-Mary Whitfield," said the woman, stripping off brown kid gloves and holding out a smooth white hand with beautifully manicured nails. The camel-hair coat slung carelessly across her shoulders echoed the color of her hair, which was blown into a rippling pageboy. She'd tossed a silk scarf artfully around her neck, prominently displaying the "Herm~es" written on the colorful horseshoe print. Her boots were made of the softest leather, the kind that melts beneath a single drop of snow.

Again, there was so much of this sort of thing that at times I wondered if it was tongue-in-cheek.

The book is partially redeemed when Billie discovers a cache of letters in the magazine's library. The letters were written during the Second World War to James Beard, the famous chef, by a 13 year old girl. The letters are interesting and free from the overripe prose which characterizes the rest of the novel.

There is, of course, a romance, though not a particularly believable one. The subplot which grows out of Billie's discovery of the letters is much more interesting than the romance.

I rate it 3 stars. It just wasn't my cup of perfectly brewed Earl Grey tea made with not quite boiling water, allowed to steep for precisely 3 minutes and 19 seconds and served in a cup of Minton china in a Spring Flowers pattern, which was discontinued in 1959.

Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,859 followers
September 10, 2016
Ruth Reichl had so much fun writing this novel. I don't know this for a fact, but I sense it in every page. This sweet confection is full of joy. There is not a mean bone in this book's body. There aren't many bones at all, really. You definitely don't need a knife and fork to eat this one, but a large napkin to catch all the drips would be good.

Inspired perhaps by Reichl's days at the venerable food magazine Gourmet before it was summarily shuttered by the publisher, Delicious! is a celebration of New York's food culture and the magic of cooking. A tender-hearted, cozy mystery surrounding correspondence between an Akron, OH pre-teen and the inimitable James Beard during World War II is woven through the modern-day romp through New York City. New York is bathed in a cinematic afterglow - think When Harry Met Sally, as opposed to Dog Day Afternoon.

Delicious! is a little too saccharine for my tastes. The wide-eyed, oatmeal-sweater-wearing, awkward and introverted protagonist, Billie, is 22 going on 14. Her puppy-dog immaturity charms the heck out of those jaded New Yorkers and of course she has a Devil Wears Pradaugly-duckling-to-swan transformation that you see coming from page one. Billie has a secret sorrow but SPOILER ALERT is it awful that I actually guffawed at the image of her sister flying into the air with a tray of cupcakes? I was laughing before I realized that maybe it wasn't supposed to be funny. But a wise and rumpled older man sets Billie straight about her guilt and grief and serves her pancakes in the bathtub. Mmm ....

It's a darling and lovable tale that asks the reader to check all disbelief at the coatroom, pull up a comfy chair, and dig in, ignoring the world for a few hours.
Profile Image for Dale Harcombe.
Author 14 books318 followers
May 29, 2017
Three and a half stars.
An enjoyable, light read set around food and a mystery involving letters from the past. Billie Breslin gets a job at Delicious the premier food magazine in New York. But just when things seem to be going well for her, things change in ways she never expected. It is during this time of change that Billie finds letters by Lulu Swan, a young girl who corresponds with Chef James Beard during World War 2. For anyone interested in food, food preparation and eating out, this book will appeal. The characters are also interesting.
For some reason I wasn’t quite convinced about Billie’s investigation into the letter saga and search to find out more about Lulu and what happened to her. But I was happy enough to go along with it. There is also a romance in this book as well as the mystery, so that will probably appeal to a lot of people. I needed a change of pace after my previous read. This filled the bill. While I enjoyed it and liked the characters, it remained a light read that doesn’t expect too much from the reader. But sometimes that’s all you want in a book.
Profile Image for aysegwn.
87 reviews33 followers
June 16, 2019
İnanamıyorum. Saklı bir hazine bulmuşum haberim yok. Puanının 4.0'ın altında olması üzücü🙁. Arkadaş listemden kimse okumamış yazık. Ama ilk ben keşfettiğim için de mutluyum😊. Basit bir çiklet sanarak elime aldım ama çok farklı bişey çıktı. Aile ve dostluk ilişkileri, iyileşme, biraz gizem ve tabii ki aşk. Yavaş yavaş ilerleyen, biraz geri planda ama çok tatlı, dramasız bir aşk. Tavsiye ederim.

Not: Kapak iğrenç ötesi. İçeriğiyle ancak bu kadar alakasız olabilirdi.
Profile Image for Barbara H.
697 reviews
March 11, 2017
The main character, Billie, works at “Delicious!”, a fictional food and cooking magazine. She abandons college and leaves her home in California to take the job in NYC.  She discovers the city is a food lover's paradise, although it takes her a while to adjust to life away from home. She is enticed by the city, its people, and the variety of food, but a mystery surrounds her.  She has a superhuman palate, she can taste any dish and can identify its ingredients, but steadfastly denies that she can cook. The main character has a resemblance to Ruth Reichl, this author, so her work as assistant editor at the magazine seems much more familiar and credible.  

When “Delicious!” unceremoniously discontinues publication by its parent publisher, Billie becomes the sole employee kept on to honor the magazine's "money back if the recipe doesn't work" guarantee. Part of the novel's charm is the description of the magazine's location. It had been housed in an historical mansion. It is there that she discovers secret rooms and finds a series of hidden letters written to a famous chef during WW II. Although the major focus of the story surrounds all things related to food, Reichl skillfully introduces a stream of historical facts and tales related to this time period.

The characters in this narrative are vivid, realistic and often very interesting in their varied roles. It was pleasant reading Reichl's offering. I would look forward to another of her books, especially to see how she relates to the world of cuisine.
Profile Image for Cyndi.
2,340 reviews100 followers
September 4, 2018
I liked this book...kinda. There were quite a few lags in the story. Our heroine has landed a job with a cooking magazine. Although she has a gift in cooking and an amazingly intensive palette for flavors, she doesn’t cook. We discover why as the story unfolds...slowly. Meanwhile there are some lovely side stories and a lot of history on WWII. There is also my ‘dream kitchen’ in its pages. “A bookshelf took up one entire wall; the jumble of books was so dense that half the volumes were in danger of tumbling to the floor. Pots of herbs waved gaily from the windows, and an Aga stove sat in one corner, filling the room with gentle heat. A long, well-worn wooden table stood in the center of the room, and Lulu went over and began gently shoving at the big orange cat stretched luxuriously across it.”
Profile Image for Becky.
1,461 reviews79 followers
April 30, 2014
Billie Breslin knows she's lucky to get a job at Delicious!. She's dropped out of college and doesn't even cook, but she has her reasons and she has an amazing palate. Within months she's written her first piece and is right where she wants to be. But then the magazine is abruptly shut down and everyone around her is looking for new employment. Billie is kept on to run the magazine's guarantee - you'll love the recipe or your money back - when she makes a wonderful discovery: in the depths of the magazine's library Billie finds Lulu Swan's WWII correspondence with James Beard. Spurred on by a new project and purpose, Billie begins to hunt down all of the letters. As she delves further into Lulu's missives, Billie begins to blossom, finding the confidence to finally step out of her sister's shadow and open herself to the people around her.

Is it too cliche to say Delicious! is delicious? Probably so. It is a truly delightful read in every way, though.

Delicious! is a story of love and loss, of personal growth, of food and the artisans of the food industry, of New York, and of history. Billie and the magazine, Sal and his shop, Mr. Complainer, Sammy, Lulu, Bertie... as the story progresses more and more pieces are added, layer by layer like some wonderful multi-course meal. It's the kind of book that keeps you turning pages late into the night and fills you with the warm and fuzzes.

I don't know that I can adequately convey my adoration of this book. Suffice it to say I found it completely absorbing and most definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a real feel good read (with food!).

But, this book should most definitely come with a warning. It's packed to the gills with tantalizing descriptions of food, which left me in a bit of a tough spot. No way could I possibly fight the constant temptation of all the mouth watering dishes. I had to valiantly fight the urge to eat the entire time I was reading!
Profile Image for Connie G.
1,738 reviews476 followers
July 2, 2014
Delicious! is a light, fun, fictional book that should appeal to foodies. The framing story involves Billie Breslin, a young woman with a discerning palate, who starts a job as the assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine in Manhattan. A beautiful historic mansion holds the offices of the food magazine (which is similar to Gourmet magazine where Ruth Reichl served as the editor.) In addition to writing food articles, Billie is responsible for manning a recipe hotline. The magazine guarantees that their readers will be happy with the recipes, or they will refund the price of the ingredients. Billie also works part-time at a family-run Italian deli that sells artisan cheeses and meats. She is mentored by a diverse group of people who introduce her to new food adventures. Sibling issues, a fashion makeover, and a love interest add to the story.

After the food magazine closes its doors, Billie stays on longer working the recipe hotline. With another former employee, Billie explores the wonderful culinary library in the old mansion. They find old letters written by Lulu, a 12-year-old girl, to James Beard during World War II. Lulu seeks advice about foraging for food, and recipes to use during wartime food rationing. She also shares her fears about her pilot father who has been shot down in Europe, and her mother who is working long hours at an aircraft factory. Lulu's problems seemed very real, and her letters were my favorite part of the book. Billie travels to Ohio to see if she can locate Lulu and see how her life progressed.

The book is a combination of interesting information about food, lovely wartime letters, and a "fluffy" contemporary mystery/romance. It was a quick, enjoyable book that would be a good vacation read.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
May 16, 2014
3.5 Food is the ultimate comfort and so this book about food is a wonderful comfort read. The descriptions about the amazing food stores in New York, the ingredients that go into recipes, the recipes themselves, and the quirky characters all add their own special flavor to this story. Throw in a mystery concerning the iconic James Beard and a young girl he corresponded with during the war, all of which kept me turning the pages with delight. Family, food, friends and finding ones own way, I enjoyed this light read.
Profile Image for Patty.
2,353 reviews100 followers
August 4, 2015
Many years ago, I went on vacation with my parents. I walked into our house at the shore and my day handed me The Prince of Tides. Several days later I emerged from Conroy's world to find that my world was still turning. I fell into that novel.

This weekend we are on vacation with friends who have not seen in months. When I walked in the house, there was Riechl's book waiting for me. My friend had finished this novel and knew I would love this. Once again, I was on vacation, but living vicariously in New York City with Billie.

Not only does Riechl's invent a magazine that is suspiciously like Gourmet, a library that I would kill to work in, people who I would love to meet but also a storyline that I had to follow to the very end as soon as possible. I loved this novel and I wanted to know what happens to very single character.
Profile Image for books_and_brew.
490 reviews29 followers
August 24, 2016
Read for my work Reading Club - not my cup of tea at all.

-As a Vegan I don't care to read the in-depth descriptions on all the cheese and meat in New York. Ugh.

-Not a fan of Billie. She was the "I am so plain and ordinary, there is nothing special about me" trope that gets on my last nerve. Get some balls girlfriend.

-The writing was choppy and awkward. I listened to this on Audible and even then it was still choppy.

Overall, this just is not my type of book - that doesn't mean you wont like it.

On to the next!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,671 reviews2,664 followers
September 24, 2014
I loved Reichl’s memoir of being a food critic, Garlic and Sapphires, so I was excited for her first novel. To exploit some food metaphors, the result might not be haute cuisine, but it’s ideal comfort food. I raced through it in a weekend; I can also imagine it being a wonderful Christmas vacation read.

Billie Breslin is Reichl’s young heroine, an ugly duckling transplanted from Santa Barbara to New York City, where she is the newest writer for Delicious! magazine, a culinary landmark for over a century. Working weekends at an Italian family delicatessen and discovering a hidden cache of letters from a Midwest teenager to James Beard during the Second World War, Billie will be far too busy to face her reluctance to cook despite her perfect palate.

In some ways it’s obvious this is a debut novel. Reichl has a kitchen-sink approach to plot, throwing in everything she possibly can: traumatic backstory, family dysfunction, war history, budding romance, drastic makeover and career rethink; mystery, quest, setbacks, closure and new beginnings. But this really is a charming book, with great supporting characters (Sammy, Sal, Mr. Complainer, Mrs. Cloverly and Lulu). I suspect you’ll come to cheer for Billie.

In tone and content the novel reminded me a lot of What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin, while the foodie aspect should appeal to fans of everything from The Reluctant Cannibals by Ian Flitcroft to Delancey by Molly Wizenberg.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,533 reviews9 followers
August 10, 2016
Billie, the lead character, has a rare perfect palate, one that can distinguish almost any flavor in any food she eats, certainly flavors I've never even heard of. This makes her a valuable commodity for Delicious! , the food magazine that hires her. It had at one time made her an excellent cook herself, but something has happened in her past that now gives her panic attacks at just the idea of cooking or baking. She's a complicated character, accustomed to growing up in her older sister's shadow, indifferent to how she looks and dresses, no ambition, stuck in a rut, and obviously scarred from whatever this thing in her past is. After the magazine closes, Billie stays on to handle reader inquiries, and spends a great deal of time in the archives reading a bevy of letters written to one of the magazine's contributors, the famed James Beard (I didn't know who he was but thanks to Wikipedia I do now). Lulu, from the age of 12 through 18, writes about learning to cook in 1943 Akron while her father is flying bombers during WWII. Very interesting historical nuggets come out in these letters, and again I learned some things I didn't know about my favorite war and about food. Billie wants to write an article or a book about Lulu, but roadblocks pop up.

This book might not appeal to all, unless you like Ruth Reichl, WWII, foodies hanging out in NYC, architecture, and a bit of despair--but hope too--all mixed up together into one appetizing recipe. Sorry, couldn't stop where that was going.

I won an Advanced Readers Edition from LibraryThing. It even includes a conversation between the author and Ann Patchett at the end.
Profile Image for Jan.
203 reviews24 followers
August 2, 2014
If protagonist Billie Breslin, with the phenomenal palate, were to “taste” this novel, she would quickly identify its excess of ingredients, likely find it irreparable, and suggest starting over from scratch.

Certainly she would have done more than tweak her own character. A brilliant but reluctant cook, hiding beneath a wild hairdo, unattractive glasses, and dumpy clothes, and on a Very Big Guilt Trip, escapes her native California to seek employment in New York City at the venerable food magazine, “Delicious!” Just 21 and a college dropout, she writes well, can identify every last ingredient in any recipe (even curry leaf!), and ran a cake shop with her sister when they were mere children. She wows the magazine staff with a recipe she created at age 10 -- but only because she must cook one dish as a condition of employment -- before retreating into the “anticipatory panic” she experiences at the very thought of preparing food. Oh, and did I mention that everyone she meets in New York takes an immediate shine to her? A squadron of foodie friends to the rescue!

I picture renowned food writer and first-time novelist Ruth Reichl getting overly excited while creating “Delicious!” as she thought of more and more to stir into the pot. In addition to Billie with her talents and secrets, let’s see, we have the sudden closing of the magazine (shades of “Gourmet”), a love interest (of course), the accidental discovery of a series of letters written by a young aspiring cook to James Beard during WWII, all so very cleverly catalogued by a one-time cryptographer that finding them all becomes a huge puzzle (huh??), the ensuing search for the letter writer 60 years later ... even the Underground Railroad figures into the plot. Plus detailed descriptions of the architectural gem of a Federal mansion where the magazine’s office is housed, of a popular Italian grocery store, and naturally of countless exquisite foods.

If just reading my review makes you breathless, you’re getting a good sense of the book’s style and contents. I would have preferred some restraint.

But this may not dissuade you. Some readers will get caught up in the mysteries, the setting, the characters, and just enjoy the ride. I admit to a bit of that myself, enough for the book to eke out three stars, if just barely.
Profile Image for Kim.
715 reviews
March 26, 2016
While reading this book I just wanted to eat the whole time!
Profile Image for Jenny.
354 reviews7 followers
November 3, 2016
There were so many things I didn't like about this book. I'll just list some but note that these are all subjective.
1. The bitterness the author showed in regards to Delicious! being shut down, reflection of her own feeling towards her own magazine, Gourmet being shut down perhaps.
2. It was difficult for me to believe that Young Author would ruthlessly fire everyone working at Delicious! but keep one person to keep the Guarantee program going. Of coures this is the author's way of having Billie left alone and finding the letters...but I feel like the author could have done this better
3. I was expecting stories of Lulu as well as James Beard but we only get Lulu's story so it felt like I was reading one sided conversations through the letters. I think the author miss out on a great opportunity.
4. Forced romance and the fight scene at The Pig - I didn't see that coming at all
5. Insensitivity in Billie when she meets Lulu
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
June 12, 2023
4.5 stars
This one was a treasure chest of things I like in a book:
Great details about cooking and foods-
A hidden room behind a library in an old mansion-
Setting in Manhattan; Billie lives overlooking Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. Any reader of “All Of A Kind Family” will let out a sigh at this detail-
Letters from WW2, written to a famous chef-
A mystery involving those letters-
An excellent book to devour! (Pun intended)
Profile Image for Dianne.
567 reviews934 followers
July 7, 2014
A good choice for a summer read - light romance, a touch of mystery, and likable characters. A little too "chick lit" for my tastes but no one writes about food better than Ruth Reichl - and that is where this book shines. Unfortunately, there's not enough of the food and a little too much of the other stuff. Still, an enjoyable summer romp - and, as a bonus, a recipe at the end for a gingerbread cake that is discussed at length throughout the book. If anyone makes it, let me know! Sounds yummy!
Profile Image for Julie  Durnell.
1,033 reviews112 followers
October 28, 2019
This book was truly delicious! For her first foray into fiction I thought it quite wonderful on so many points. Not a cookbook by any means, but a mouthwatering descriptive foodie story of trips to the shops of downtown New York and tasty meals simply put together with friends. Not exactly historical fiction but the stately Timber mansion and it's lovely library containing letters exchanged between a girl and famous chef James Beard during WWII is great historical reading. A kind of love story but not the main focus. I just really enjoyed this on so many levels!
Profile Image for Andrea.
741 reviews112 followers
February 14, 2016
**happy sigh**
Oh, I adored this book, but then it was pretty much designed for me. It features mouthwatering food, glorious flavors and pungent aromas that jump off the page, old letters, even a secret library!! Brilliant, even if it leans toward hokey at times. I found the characters completely absorbing and enormously entertaining. This is simply one of those books that you just want to live in for a while.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,815 reviews343 followers
January 6, 2019
Digital audiobook performed by Julia Whelan
3.5*** rounded up

Adapted from the book jacket: Billie Breslin has left her California home for New York City and a job at Delicious!, an iconic food magazine. She feels like a fish out of water and writes long letters to her older sister, Genie. But she is welcomed by the colorful staff, and seduced by the vibrant food scene. In the magazine’s library Billie uncovers a secret cache of letters written during WW2. She feels a powerful connection to the girl who wrote those letters, and they help Billie come to terms with her own fears and anxieties.

My reactions
I’ve read several of Reichl’s memoirs and really enjoyed them. Now she’s taken a turn at writing a novel.

This is part romance, part coming-of-age, part mystery. I enjoyed the story and was caught up in the intrigue, but it didn’t bake quite long enough. Though she’s the central characters, Billie seemed a little under-developed; perhaps Reichl was trying too hard to make her interesting. I really liked Sal, Rosie and Mitch, and grew to appreciate Sammy. I loved the letters from the 12-year-old Lulu during WW2, and that part of the story really drew me in. However, Reichl really shines when she is writing about food. I can practically taste the cheeses, smell the spices, and feel the warmth of steam rising from a simmering pot.

All-in-all, I found it enjoyable and entertaining. A great beach read. (And since that’s where I was reading it, I’ll round up to 4 stars.)

The audiobook is narrated by the wonderful Julia Whelan. She is a very talented voice artist and I particularly loved the voices she used for Sal and Lulu. I found her Sammy a bit much, but that really a small quibble.
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