05 December 2016

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Reading in the Digital Age

Reading in the digital age: Beth Fish ReadsMore thoughts on eReading: If you're a long-time reader of Beth Fish Reads, then you know about my struggles at getting used to reading and reviewing eBooks (see my eMerging eReader series). My problems weren't based in the act of reading on screen, after all, I do that all day long almost every day in my full-time job as an editor. Instead, I had three issues:

  • Eyestrain: At the end of the workday, my eyes are happier with print.
  • New habits: I had to get used to using the electronic forms of flagging pages and marking text I needed for writing reviews.
  • In my face: I simply forgot to look at my virtual bookshelf when picking my next read.
Nowadays, I'm well on my way (I hope) to conquering my eReading foes by tweaking my technological choices and putting together a consolidated book database.

I'm thinking about eBooks because this is #CelebrateEbooks week, sponsored by Open Road Media. Check out the hashtag on your social media and follow Open Road on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get in the celebration. Share what you love about eBooks, your initial problems and how you solved them, what books you have loaded onto your digital device, or whatever you want. I plan to follow along and am already resigned to seeing my reading list grow in leaps and bounds.

What I listened to last week

I may not be reading much print right now, but I'm still listening. I finished two books last week and bailed on another. Here are my quick thoughts.

3 Audiobook reviews
  • Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (read by Polly Lee; Harper Audio): I ended up liking Lee's performance but had mixed feelings about how Johansen pulled together the different threads of the trilogy. In particular, I wasn't happy about the ending, which had a "poof! and now here we are" element. I would have liked a few more details on how it all happened or, better yet, a stronger finish that would have better fit Queen Kelsea. Oh well. Lee was especially good at bringing the action scenes alive and keeping me immersed in the Tearling universe.
  • Feedback by Mira Grant (read by Georgia Dolenz; Hachette Audio): This was a big fail on two levels. First, I should remind you how much I enjoyed the original Newsflesh trio, which cleverly imagined the near future as the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse caused by an anti-cancer virus gone wild. Problem one is that this book seems to start at the same place as book 1 (Feed) and is telling the same story but focusing on different characters. Frankly, I wanted something new. Problem two was with the narrator. Dolenz was awesome as the Irish main character but all the other people sounded the same. In fact, I couldn't the men from the women. It was so confusing. But when she mispronounced place names in the Pacific Northwest (easy to look up or research), I knew it was time to bail.
  • The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri (read by the author; Random House Audio): In this essay, originally given as a keynote speech in Italy, Lahiri mused about the impact book covers have on readers. Sounds like it could be interesting, eh? Instead, it was a bit whiny and focused on how she pretty much hates the covers of her own books. I didn't really see the point. She's an easy-to-understand narrator but is emotionally distant. I can't recommend this hour-long audiobook.

What's up for this week

After work today (yes, I worked on a Sunday), I have the following books queued up:

2 books to read in December
  • Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman (read by Cassandra Campbell; Random House Audio): I'm excited to start this biography of Colette, who was an author, dancer, and early feminist. I've loved Colette's writing for decades and have always wanted to know more about her real life and how it compares to the one she created on the page.I listened to the first ten minutes of the audiobook and already love Campbell's performance. I plan to follow along in the eBook, which I checked out of the library (Ballantine Books).
  • Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh (Putnam; January 2017): Because I really liked her debut, Fever Tree, I am looking forward to McVeigh's newest book, which takes place in Kenya in the 1950s, a time of great change in British Africa. I love the setting and have faith in McVeigh's skills at describing the environment and creating complex, believable characters. I'm reading an eGalley (see #CelebrateEbooks)!
What's on your reading list this week?

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03 December 2016

The Kitchen Journal: Turkey Enchilada Casserole

Turkey Enchilada Casserole from Beth Fish ReadsI had a couple of requests for how I made my turkey enchilada caserole last weekend. It was really, really good with the leftover turkey, and I bet it'd be equally as good with cooked ground meat or any other shredded cooked meat.

The casserole completely fills a 9x13-inch baking pan, so if you have fewer people to feed or just can't stand to eat the same meal two days in a row (and then for lunch), you might want to cut the ingredients in half and layer them in an 8x8-inch pan.

I didn't take any photos, sorry! Not only am I not the best food photographer but I didn't realize I'd be sharing the (non)recipe. I do have a photo of the enchilada sauce I made, with a credit back to the site where I found the recipe. I didn't have any premade sauce in the house so I had to go searching. I really liked the way this one turned out.

Red Enchilada Sauce from Gimme Some Oven

Notes: I made 1.5 times the following recipe to yield about 3 cups of sauce. The text in color indicates ingredients I used and/or the amounts I used compared to the original recipe. Also note that the sauce thickens but doesn't get thick (if you know what I mean).

    Photo Credit: Gimme Some Oven
    Credit: Gimme Some Oven
  • 2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons medium chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups chicken stock
Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir together over the heat for one minute. Stir in the remaining seasonings (chili powder through oregano). Then gradually add in the stock, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until thick. Use immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

Notes: Measures are approximate. I used whole wheat flour tortillas because that's what I had in the house. I think corn tortillas would have been awesome, but if you use 6-inch tortillas you'll need a few extra. I kind of made this up as I went, but am pleased with the results.
  • 5 (8-inch) flour tortillas
  • 3 cups of enchilada sauce
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, drained, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 small bag frozen corn, thawed (normal size, I don't have a measure)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies
  • 1 (4-ounce) can sliced black olives, drained
  • 3/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 heaping cups of shredded turkey (white and dark meat)
  • 3 generous cups of shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • 1 chopped avocado, lime wedges, sour cream (for serving)
Preheat the oven to 350F. Oil or spray a 9x13-inch baking pan.

Heat a cast-iron or nonstick pan over medium high heat and cook the tortillas, one at a time, until they get a little color, about 2 minutes a side. Cut each one into quarters.

Pour about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Arrange about one-third of the tortilla pieces over the sauce and then top with one-third each of beans, corn, onion, bell pepper, green chilies, olives, and cilantro, evenly distributing the ingredients. Top with 1 cup of the turkey and then 1 cup of the cheese. Repeat two more times, ending with the cheese. (If you have extra cheese, put it all on top!)

Spray or oil a piece of foil and cover the pan. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly. Remove the foil and let bake another 10-15 minutes until the cheese takes on color and the casserole is heated through.

Pass avocado, lime wedges, and sour cream at the table.
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Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.
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02 December 2016

6 Books for Middle Grade Readers

Early December is the perfect time to introduce you to a half dozen books for young readers. Get ready to add some titles to wish list, whether you are looking for holiday gifts, want to read along with your kids, or (like me) simply enjoy reading middle grade books.

Fantastical Fun

  • 6 Books for Middle Grade ReadersSchool Ship Tobermory by Alexander McCall Smith (Delacorte Books for Young Readers): Twins Ben and Fee MacTavish leave their submarine home to attend school on a sailboat with kids from around the world. An exciting learning adventure turns into a mystery when the Tobermory crosses paths with another ship.
  • Wildwitch Wildfire by Lene Kaaberbol (Pushkin's Children's Books): When shy Clara meets a huge black cat, she discovers she's a wildwitch. Will her newly developed skills, including talking to animals, protect her from the darker beings? (translated from the Danish)

Contemporary Antics

  • 6 Books for Middle Grade ReadersWelcome to Wonderland by Chris Grabenstein (Random House Children's Books): P.T. Wilkie and his mom live in his grandfather's struggling motel located in a Florida resort town. After he meets motel guest Gloria Ortega, the two youngsters scheme and plot to save P.T.'s home.
  • Nothing but Trouble by Jacqueline Davies (Katherine Tegen Books): Maggie's scientific imagination is given a needed spark when she befriends the new girl at school, artistic Lena. The dynamic duo become the queens of pranks that brighten up their small town.

Get a Shot of Reality

  • 6 Books for Middle Grade ReadersTrailblazers by Rachel Swaby (Delacorte Books for Young Readers): This fascinating book contains short biographies of thirty-three women who were pioneers in science from a variety of fields, including astronomy, health, chemistry, and genetics. An easy-to-read introduction.
  • The Stout-Hearted Seven by Net Lohnes Frazier (Young Voyager): The true story of the Sager children who were orphaned on the Oregon Trail in 1844, adopted by a family, and then captured by Cayuse Indians. This books is based on a manuscript written by one of the surviving children.

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30 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday 422

Graveyard, South-Central Pennsylvania


Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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29 November 2016

Today's Read: Maiden Flight by Harry Haskell

All about Maiden Flight by Harry HaskellSuppose you had devoted your entire life to helping your brothers achieve fame, supporting them in multiple spheres: domestic, professional, legal, and social. Now suppose that as you faced your later years you fell in love. Which would you chose? Family or passion? This is story of Katharine Wright, sister to the Wright Brothers of aviation fame:

What I remember best about that winter in Pau is the bitter cold. If you ask me, all that talk of "sunny southern France" is a delusion and a snare. Orv and I practically froze in our beds! Will had sworn up and down that the Gassion was the best hotel in town, but I never was so uncomfortable in my whole life, not even in the icy grip of an Ohio winter—and that is no picnic, I assure you! Luckily, I came prepared for the worst. When Will took me up in the flying machine for the first time, I was all trussed up like a turkey, with my overcoat bound snug around my ankles and a long scarf looped over my hat to keep it tethered down.
Maiden Flight by Henry Haskell (Chicago Review Press, 2016, p. 3)

Quick Facts

  • Setting: early decades of the 20th century, mostly various places in the United States
  • Circumstances: The novel focuses not on the Wright Brothers' invention of a working airplane but on their sister, Katharine, and how she helped them in their work, in proving their claim as aviation pioneers, and in their public life. It is also the story of her renewed acquaintance and then relationship with Harry Haskell, a newspaper man she knew from her college years. It's the story of a vivacious, independent woman who was eventually forced, as the prologue says, to choose between love and duty.
  • Genre: historical fiction; adult audience
  • Themes: women's issues, history of flight, love, family, siblings
  • Main characters: Katharine Wright, college educated and devoted to her brothers; Orville and Wilbur Wright, the first men to fly; Harry Haskell, a newspaper editor who stole Katharine's heart; various people from the press, aviation, museums, and history.
  • Some things to know: The novel is told from three points of view—Katharine's, Orville's, and Harry's—and reads like a trio of interwoven memoirs. At the end of the book, you'll find a cast of characters, an author's note revealing his artistic decisions, and a few endnotes with fuller explanations of the story.
  • About the author and his sources: The book's author is the grandson and namesake of the same Harry Haskell who married Katharine Wright. Author Haskell relied on family letters and documents and various archival material found in library, museum, and university collections to round out the true events and the personalities of the people involved.

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Copyright

All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2016. All rights reserved.

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