17 October 2017

Today's Read & Giveaway: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan LindsayImagine you're on a school outing, exploring some famous rock formations with three friends a teacher. When you return to the picnic grounds, however, you are all alone with no recollection of what happened to your companions. Murder, accident, or abduction? Will anyone ever discover the truth?

Everyone agreed that the day was just right for the picnic to Hanging Rock--a shimmering summer morning warm and still, with cicadas shrilling all through breakfast from the loquat trees outside the dining-room windows and bees murmuring above the pansies bordering the drive. Heavy-headed dahlias flamed and drooped in the immaculate flowerbeds, the well-trimmed lawns steamed under the mounting sun. Already the gardener was watering the hydrangeas still shaded by the kitchen wing at the rear of the College. The boarders at Mrs Appleyard's College for Young Ladies had been up and scanning the bright unclouded sky since six o'clock and were now fluttering about in the holiday muslins like a flock of excited butterflies. Not only was it a Saturday and the long awaited occasion of the annual picnic, but Saint Valentine's Day, traditionally celebrated on the fourteenth of February by the interchange of elaborate cards and favours. All were madly romantic and strictly anonymous--supposedly the silent tributes of lovesick admirers; although Mr Whitehead the elderly English gardener and Tom the Irish groom were almost the only two males to be so much as smiled at during the term.
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (Penguin Classics, 2017, p. 1)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: 1900, Mount Macedon area, Victoria, Australia
  • Circumstances: On a school outing, three girls and a teacher disappear without a trace while hiking at Hanging Rock. Several people enter a dreamlike state after ascending the rocks, and other members of the school community are forever changed by the events of that February day. The search for the missing women and the mystery of what happened consumes the bulk of the novel.
  • Genre: mystery, classic
  • Things to know: The book is written in a way that makes readers wonder if the events described are based on fact or fiction (the author adds the note: "Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves"). A movie based on the book was released in 1975, and a television mini-series is supposed to air this year, on the 50th anniversary of the book's publication.
  • Hanging Rock culture: Fans of the book are said to visit the Hanging Rock area, where they search for landmarks mentioned in the novel. Even the visitor center is supposed to perpetuate the story of the missing girls and, in particular, of Miranda, one of the students who vanished into the rocks. Other groups have protested that the significance of Hanging Rock to Aborigine history has been overshadowed by the book and are working hard to restore the truth.
  • The missing chapter: According to several websites, Lindsay's editor decided to cut the original final chapter, which is supposed to present a different perspective on what happened at Hanging Rock. That chapter was later published as a standalone, after the author's death.
The Giveaway

Thanks to the nice people at Penguin Books, I can offer one of my readers a copy of the Penguin Classic, 50th Anniversary edition of Joan Lindsay's Picnic at Hanging Rock. All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to have a USA mailing address and fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via a random number generator on October 24. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. Good luck.

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16 October 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: It Was a Slow, Slow Week

Slow Reading WeekI had a very slow reading week because I was working hard to be able to take time off to spend a long weekend with my mom. I manged to finish only one audiobook and didn't finish any print books or ebooks.

Oh well. Family is more important than books. We had a great time doing some fun things as well as getting my mother's house and yard ready for winter. We cooked and baked, watched some football, and generally gabbed and visited.

I don't think I missed the books at all.

Review: Paradise Lodge by Nina StibbeParadise Lodge by Nina Stibbe (Little, Brown; July 2016): I really liked Stibbe's Man at the Helm so I don't know why I waited to read this follow-up. Set in 1977, Lizzie Vogel, now at the ripe old age of fifteen, is fully aware she can't always count on adults to know how to handle everyday life, let alone upheaval. Although she's hardly qualified, Lizzie snags a job in a rundown convalescence home for the elderly, happy to finally have her own money to buy fancy cosmetics and other teen necessities. The trouble is, however, she's supposed to be in school studying for her O levels, not working extra shifts at Paradise Lodge. Between making sketchy deals with the school authorities and contending with her eccentric mother and uncertainty at home, Lizzie finds herself becoming invested in the rest home's community: There are secrets to keep, love affairs to discover, kidnappings to thwart, and surprising twists to people's lives and deaths. What a fun, quirky coming-of-age story. You don't have to have read the first book to love Paradise Lodge, but why miss out on all things Lizzie? I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 9 hr, 14 min), which was read by Helen Baxendale, who did a great job highlighting Lizzie's personality and distinguishing among the characters. I particularly loved the way she handled the humor, never foreshadowing or leading me, but letting me appreciate the fun all on my own. Highly recommended in either medium.

I'll leave you with a photo of the riverside, where my family had drinks one night. It's crazy that it was warm enough to sit outside in northern Ohio on an October evening.

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14 October 2017

Weekend Cooking: James Beard: America's First Foodie (documentary)

Reveiw: James Beard: America's First Foodie (documentary)James Beard is a household name in America and likely around the world. Many people know his name because the most prestigious culinary awards are named after him. In fact, to be a James Beard winner is one of the highest honors a chef, food writer, or restaurateur could ever hope for.

So why is there a James Beard Foundation? Who was he as a man and as "America's Food Foodie"? Tune in to your PBS television station and watch the American Masters episode that focuses on how Beard stopped seeing himself as a struggling actor and began the journey to finding his star in the culinary world.

The "Chefs Flight" series currently consists of four documentaries. each focusing on a different pioneering chef. Although the series was launched in the spring, I started watching only this week.

James Beard: America's First Foodie follows the "Dean of American Cooking" from his childhood in Portland, Oregon, where his food senses were first awakened by his mother, a well-known and respected local cook. Even in the first decades of the 20th century, the city had a large farmers' market, and it was there Beard developed an appreciation for quality ingredients.

Despite his love of food, Beard originally wanted to be either an opera singer or an actor. Even though he appeared in some plays and a movie, he struggled to make ends meet. Beard loved the social life in New York, and cocktail parties ruled the nightlife in the post-Prohibition era. He attended many a party because he was a safe escort for married women, when their husbands were unavailable. He became, as he is quoted saying in America's First Foodie, a kind of "gastronomic gigolo."

Reveiw: James Beard: America's First Foodie (documentary)Beard loved the parties, but hated the food served at those prewar gatherings, and thus he was inspired to start his own catering business. Once he became known as a cook, he never looked back.

He was revolutionary in many ways and is credited with pioneering the farm to table movement, many decades before it caught on with restaurateurs and the American public. He was the first television chef. Beard was also one of the first famous American male cooks and changed postwar American cuisine from recipes that started with "take a can of cream of mushroom soup" to cooking with real food and from scratch.

James Beard: America's First Foodie contains vintage photos and film and interviews with people who knew Beard, took classes from him, or were influenced by him. The film isn't all serious though, and we learn some fun gossip too. It also spotlights Beard's generosity, his support of his friends, his kindness to his fans, and his part in making sure programs like Meals on Wheels were successful.

I'm looking forward to seeing the other documentaries in the Chefs Flight series, which introduce us to Julia Child, Alice Waters, and Jacques P├ępin. For more on the American  Master programs and to find a place to watch James Beard:America's First Foodie, visit your local PBS station's website or check out the American Masters website directly.

Here's the trailer for the James Beard episode. (Note: photos were supplied with the series press kit.)


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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.

NOTE: Mr. Linky sometimes is mean and will give you an error message. He's usually wrong and your link went through just fine the first time. Grrrr.
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13 October 2017

9 Nonfiction Books to Read Right Now

No matter where you live, October is a time for changing seasons. For me, the days are noticeably shorter, and I'm looking forward to cool evenings curled up with a book. This week I'm expanding my horizons by gaining new perspectives on humanity and learning more about life in other places and other times. The 9 books I feature today are exemplary of the outstanding nonfiction available in your bookstore right now.

What It Means to Be Human

9 nonfiction books to read in October
  • Admissions by Henry Marsh (Thomas Dunne, Oct. 3): A well-respected retired neurosurgeon examines his career with grace and style. Marsh provides a broad perspective by sharing not only his tenure in Britain's top hospitals but also his experiences as a volunteer in much poorer countries with few medical resources.
  • The Origins of Creativity by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright, Oct. 8): A Pulitzer Prize-winning evolutionary biologist looks at the intersection of the humanities and biology to explore the importance of creativity in the evolution of Homo sapiens. Wilson looks to our distant past and also offers his thoughts on how we can protect our planet's future.
  • On Living by Kerry Egan (Riverhead, Oct. 25): A compassionate hospice chaplain shares the life lessons she learned while tending to the dying. Egan writes that surprisingly few patients wanted to talk about God, instead finding meaning and purpose in their relationships with family and friends.
Insights into Other Lives

9 nonfiction books to read in October
  • Code Girls by Liza Mundy (Hachette, Oct. 10): A well-known journalist give thousands of women their rightful place among the American heroes of World War II. Mundy introduces us to the young female recruits who spent the war years breaking enemy codes, testing U.S. codes, and providing vital intelligence to the military.
  • Blood Brothers by Deanne Stillman (Simon & Schuster, Oct. 24): An award-winning author delves into the deep friendship between Sitting Bull, a Lakota Indian, and William Cody, the owner of the famous Wild West Show. Stillman focuses on the lives of the two men in the years after the Little Big Horn, placing their actions in the broad context of Native American rights both then and now.
  • The Six by Laura Thompson (Picador, Oct. 3): A freelance journalist gives us the inside scoop on the famous Mitford sisters. Thompson not only tells us the gossipy stories of the young women but notes how their very diverse lives reflected the changing British and European landscape surrounding the war years. (Note: not new, but new in paperback.)
Investigating Issues

9 nonfiction books to read in October
  • A Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo (Hachette, Oct. 3): An on-site reporter provides a firsthand and personal account of devastating conflicts in four African countries. Okeowo reports on a small group of inspiring individuals who suffered and survived extremist violence and who are now trying to end further tragedy in their respective homelands. 
  • Wild Horse Country by David Philipps (Norton, Oct. 10): A Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist explores the history of the wild horse from its introduction by Spanish explorers to its hallowed place in the American imagination. Most important though, Philipps exposes the precariousness of the mustang's future in the ever-diminishing public lands of the west.
  • Death in the Air by Kate Winkler Dawson (Hachette, Oct. 17): A documentary film producer / journalist looks at the two active killers of 1952 London's harrowing winter of death. Dawson tracks the effects of the tens of thousands of deaths caused by a five-day noxious smog and the half dozen victims of a presumed serial killer, who was on the loose in the crippled city.

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11 October 2017

Wordless Wednesday 467

Fall Tracks, 2017


For full effect, click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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All content and photos (except where noted) copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads 2008-2017. All rights reserved.

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