I love randomly discovering new [to me] writers, especially when they're not well-known bestseller list types. That whole underdog thing.
I finished Crawfish Dreams last week and am happy to say that Nancy Rawles is a remarkable talent! She weaves an intricate tale of a family of Creoles living in mid-80's Los Angeles into a delicious literary gumbo. Pretty Miss Camille Broussard is the roux, a strong base around which her family, the Watts "riots," and the dark side of Reaganomics all come to vibrant life. Her children, in particular, are so finely detailed that you want to smack them upside their heads for what they put her through. The entire Broussard family is one you'll grow to love, warts and all, wondering how they're doing long after finishing the book.
The included recipes - for meat pie, gumbo and other yummy dishes - are a clever little bonus, but the story succeeds purely on its own merits.
I'm now halfway through Venom's Taste, a newish Forgotten Realms novel that's turning out better than I expected, which of course, isn't saying much. That it's so blatantly a marketing piece for some of their newest game supplements (specifically, the Expanded Psionics Handbook and Serpent Kingdoms) isn't as annoying as it could be as the author, Lisa Smedman, is actually a pretty decent writer. Relatively speaking. Solid hackwork, it follows the D&D formula to the letter, making for perfect brain candy after back-to-back full-course meals with Ruff and Rawles.
What's really sad, though, is that Venom's Taste ranks 9,382 on Amazon.com while Crawfish Dreams languishes at 1,568,014! It's surprising that it was even stocked, never mind displayed, at Borders the day I bought it. Someone else apparently loves the underdog, too.