27 February 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Mini-Reviews and Books on My Radar

 Book reviews and previewsNot much of interest happening around here, and I consider that to be a good thing. We managed to turn off the news a few times this week so we could watch a few television shows, listen to some music, and catch up on our reading. Ahhh, feels good.

Getting organized (again): I have officially declared myself to be a total failure when it comes to organizing my books. Actually it's worse than that: I'm not trying to organize my books, I just want to keep track of them, all of them -- print, audio, and e.

The problem boils down to one thing. When I have free time, I really would rather be doing almost anything else besides entering books into an app. I haven't completely given up on my dream of creating a unified database, but I recognize this is going to be a lifelong struggle.

Mini-Reviews of Last Week's Books

 Book reviews and previews
  • Setting Free the Kites by Alex George (Putnam; 9780399162107): I used to say that books don't make me cry, but that was before I started reading Alex George. His characters are so real to me, I'm completely and utterly emotionally attached to them. This strong, authentic story of loss and growth, of being boys, of finding hope and embracing life against all odds simmers slowly in my heart, and Liam, Robert, and Nathan (and even Hollis) will remain with me as I continue to strive to set my own kites free. One of the best books I'll read all year from one of my favorite authors. Buy this book, read this book (and keep those tissues handy).
  • Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin (Katherine Tegen Books; 9780062458544): I had mixed success with this novel in verse, which is a Romeo and Juliet retelling set in contemporary times in the Mideast (Israel and Palestine). Laskin did a good job emphasizing the similarities between the lives of the Jewish girl and Muslim boy (such as sitting down for family dinners) and highlighting the idea that each generation is a little more tolerant than the one before it. In addition, I enjoyed finding the places where the novel subtly echoed the original play ("I hate the parting / the sorrow of it / the fear / tomorrow will never come"). On the other hand, there was so much teen angst I found my attention wandering, and I'm not sure I bought the ending. Read this with reduced expectations.
  • Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli (Clarion Books; 9780547483931): This  beautifully illustrated middle grade graphic novel is the story of a mermaid who discovers there is more to life and the world than the aquarium, in which she lives. It's a coming-of-age story, with a strong theme of friendship, that will capture young readers' imaginations. The plot advances mostly through the drawings, which are rich in ocean colors and convincingly convey emotion and movement. The story line of the mermaid's keeper could have been a little better developed, but I'm still recommending the book.
What I'm Listening to Now / Reading Plans

 Book reviews and previews
  • The Rise of Empire by Michael J. Sullivan (Recorded Books), read by Tim Gerard Reynolds: My current listen is making it very difficult for me to work. I am so invested in this fantasy world and the characters, I just have to know what happens next. This is not magic wand fantasy but a medieval-like world with elves, dwarfs, and wizards; kings, a clergy, and commoners; politics, war, and love. If you like epic fantasy, you'll like Sullivan, and narrator Reynolds has nailed the characters' personalities and the pace of the story.
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina A. Henriquez (Knopf; 9780385350846): This novel about a Mexican family looking for hope and miracles in America is next up in my print reading. Although published in 2014, this story of immigration promises to be especially relevant in the context of today's political atmosphere.
  • All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 9780544824249): Next up on my eReader is this contemporary story about family, adulthood, and discovering what's really important. I gave high marks to a couple of Attenberg's earlier novels (for example, The Middlesteins) and am expecting a sharp, smart, and sometimes humorous look at modern-day life.
What's Up This Week

I have a review and giveaway of a fun middle grade book tomorrow, a photo on Wednesday, and a themed reading list later in the week. Saturday, of course, will be something foodie.

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25 February 2017

Weekend Cooking: Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked by Raghavan Iyer

Review of Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked by Raghavan IyerWhenever I think of Raghavan Iyer, I immediately start craving Indian food, like the dishes in his Indian Cooking Unfolded, which I reviewed a few years ago. Yet this James Beard Award-winning author and cook is, of course, much more versatile than that.

In Smashed, Mashed, Boiled, and Baked and Fried, Too!, he explores all the wonders of the potato--white, sweet, red, and gold. Featuring Iyer's usual style, this cookbook goes beyond simply providing recipes.

Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked starts with a mini-encyclopedia of potatoes, including nutrition, whether to buy organic, and which cultivar to use in which situation. In addition, throughout the book, you'll find dozens of "Tater Tips," which not only focus on making you a potato expert but also introduce you to a world of ingredients and handy cooking techniques.

Review of Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked by Raghavan IyerThe cookbook is published by Workman, so you know the color scheme and graphics are eye-catching and the recipes are clearly written and well edited. The chapters take you from munchies to salads, sides, and mains and end with luscious desserts: sweet potato sweet rolls with Cointreau glaze? Yes, please; I'll take two.

The wide range of recipes cover the expected, like Russian potato salad, as well as more surprising fusion dishes, such as Asian-inspired steamed buns with potatoes and chives. So many of the recipes appeal to me, I could pretty much start at the beginning of the book and make everything: Canadian lamb pie, Mexican empanadas, Eastern European knishes, Indian curry, Chinese tea-infused new potatoes, and French sweet potato tart.

Despite the global foundation of the dishes, Iyer is always careful to make sure his recipes are accessible to everyone. I think the most exotic ingredient I found in this book was lemon grass, and even I can buy that at the supermarket. I don't know about you, but I appreciate it when a cookbook author remembers we don't all live in New York City or Seattle.

Review of Smashed, Mashed, Boiled and Baked by Raghavan IyerAn especially welcome feature of Smashed, Mashed, Boiled, and Baked is the dual index. Besides the conventional index of recipes and ingredients, the cookbook also contains an index of recipes appropriate for different dietary restrictions: gluten free, vegan, and two kinds of vegetarian. How helpful is that?

If you like foodie eye-candy you won't be disappointed. Although there isn't a photograph of every single recipe, there many beautiful full-page photos of the finished dishes and some that demonstrate cooking techniques. I think you'll be happy.

I had a hard time picking a recipe to share, mostly because I didn't want to leave out any of the helpful tips and information. I decided that instead of typing, I'd scan a recipe (you'll have to click the image to enlarge it and to see it in sharp focus.) I picked this potato salad because its North African flavors sound so warming and good. Be sure to read the Tater Tips and the introduction so you can tweak this dish to your personal taste.

Raghavan Iyer's Harissa Potato Salad

Note on photos: All photos were scanned by me or downloaded from Workman's website and are used in the context of this review. All rights remain with the original copyright holder, Raghavan Iyer or photographer Matthew Benson.

Published by Workman, 2016
ISBN-13: 9780761185475
Source: review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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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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24 February 2017

Imprint Friday: 8 cozy mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime

Is it winter or is it summer? You can't tell by the temperatures here in central Pennsylvania. When life gets crazy, I get cozy -- here are the latest offerings from Berkley Prime Crime Paperbacks, all released either February 7 or March 7 of this year. I love the titles and the covers (click images for clear view)!

8 cozy mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime
  • Cold Pressed Murder by Kelly Lane: The Olive Grove series is set in Abundance, Georgia, where Eva Knox and her sisters run an upscale olive plantation, entertain the tourists, and solve murders. This second installment involves a food festival, complete with celebrity chefs and a host of quirky characters, some of whom may be guilty of murder. Recipes are included.
  • A Wee Homicide in the Hotel by Fran Stewart: The ScotShop series has a paranormal element: protagonist Peggy Winn's ghostly companion, Dirk, a medieval Highlander who comes in handy when there's a murder to solve. Peggy's base is her Scots-themed store, nestled in a small Vermont town. In this third outing, a tourist is found dead in his hotel room, the victim of a bagpipe crime.
  • Blown Away by Clover Tate: This brand-new series is set on the Oregon coast and stars Emmy Adler, who is getting ready to open her one-of-a-kind, artisan kite shop. It looked like a wonderful day to let her dreams soar high . . . until she finds a body on the beach, and her best friend becomes the prime suspect.
  • Gone with the Twins by Kylie Logan: The League of Literary Ladies Mysteries are set on an island in Lake Erie, where the local book club is earning a reputation for their sleuthing abilities. In the fifth entry, the women get caught up in a murder that may have roots in the island real estate business. It gets personal when the police start to suspect that one of the club members might be guilty.
8 cozy mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime
  • No Cats Allowed by Miranda James: A Cat in the Stacks series combines a book-loving cat, Diesel, and a murder-solving librarian, Charlie Harris, who live in a small town in Mississippi. In the seventh installment, local bigwigs decide to make changes to the beloved library, and things heat up, resulting in a murder. Can Charlie and Diesel find the killer before an innocent staffer gets convicted?
  • Roux the Day by Linda Wiken: The Dinner Club Mysteries are set in Burlington, Vermont, and revolve around themed dinner parties, with a little murder on the side. In this second installment, dinner plans go awry when one of the guests is found dead before the meal has ended. Police point the finger at our hero, master event planner J. J. Tanner. Recipes are included.
  • The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford: In the Emergency Dessert Squad series, Cincinnati baker Winnie Johnson has a talent for sweets and for digging up clues. When a student is found poisoned after eating one of Winnie's desserts, she must scramble to clear her name and her shop's reputation. This is the second entry in the series, and it includes recipes.
  • War and Peach by Susan Furlong: In this third Georgia Peach Mystery, Nola May Harper, peach farmer and shopkeeper, stays current both with the local gossip and with any murders. When the race for mayor becomes deadly, the town turns against Margie, an area businesswoman with political ambitions. Nola, however, is sure her friend is innocent, if only she can prove it. Recipes are included.

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22 February 2017

Wordless Wednesday 434

Winter hike, 2017


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

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20 February 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: All Things Audiobooks

Audiobook News from Beth Fish ReadsI'm so looking forward to this week, when life in the BFR household should (theoretically) return to normal. Yay us! Mr. BFR got the green light to drive again, and he's starting to get out for some short walks.

What's more, the weather has temporarily turned mild, and I love the idea that I can get out with my camera again. I've missed my outdoor walks; the treadmill just isn't the same.

In other news, I plan to return to book talk on Twitter. I think politics are important (no matter which side of the aisle you're on). I'm sure I'll veer off in that direction every once in a while, but I want to take back my social media by focusing once again on books, movies, TV, and some fun things. I don't think a few calm moments will detract from the big changes we are facing. If others think I'm shallow to talk about cooking, well, I can live with that.

Three Cheers for Audiobooks! 

Review: The Gilded Cage by Vic JamesI finished listening to Vic James's The Gilded Cage (Del Rey), which explores an alternate history world in which some people are born with magic. In England, the people with magic are the people in political power and the ones with all the resources. The ordinary people (those without magic) are required to serve ten years as slaves in return for full citizenship. Slavery is not required, but it does grant certain rights and privileges . . . if you survive unbroken or survive at all. We follow two families, one magically gifted and the other not. I really love the world building (alternate history mixed with contemporary culture) and the plotting (politics, family, friendships, betrayals), and found some characters to root for and some to hate.

The unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio; 11 hr, 32 min) was read by Avita Jay. While I didn't hate her performance, there was something off-putting: perhaps a little bit of a repetitive cadence? In addition, the characterizations were not as distinct as I would have liked. I'm recommending this one in print and am looking forward to the next book.

Here's a video in which author Vic James talks about her surprising first writing prize and early her influences.


Recommended audiobooksI started listening to Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey read by Gemma Dawson and Alex Wyndam. The book itself is a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest, though you don't have to be familiar with the play to enjoy the story. It's an interesting take on the original, although neither narrator is totally grabbing me. I'm listening for a freelance assignment, so I'll persevere.

So what was fabulous? I recently re-read Lyndsay Faye's Jane Steele in audiobook form (Penguin Audio; 12 hr, 14 min). The book was just as much fun the second time around, thanks to Susie Riddell's fantastic performance. She had great timing, the perfect level of expressive drama, and let the humor speak for itself. I found it very hard to stop listening. If you're unfamiliar with the novel, this is a story inspired by Jane Eyre (not a retelling) and includes a touch of murder and a resourceful protagonist. Oh, and there's a bit of romance too. Don't miss it in print or audio.

Other Audiobook News
  • Do you check audiobooks out from the library? If so you're probably relying on physical CDs or Overdrive. Did you know there was another audiobook service that many libraries offer for digital downloads? It's Hoopla, which offers a wide range of audiobooks, some of which you may be able to download without having to sit on a waiting list. Hoopla also offers movies, music, books, and comics, so check it out. It's free with your library card in the United States and Canada (not sure about elsewhere).
  • Do you have a streaming speaker system in your house for listening to music, podcasts, and the radio? Have you ever thought of using it to listen to a book? Here are two pairings I know about: If you have a Sonos speaker you can listen to your Audiobooks.com books through it. If you have an Amazon Echo, you can listen to your Audible.com books. Both audiobook services require a membership, but listening through your house system should be easy to set up.
  • Do you blog about audiobooks? Are you an advocate for audiobooks on YouTube, Twitter, or other social media? If so, please seriously consider entering the Audio Publishers Association's Blogger of the Year contest. I am the current reigning Blogger of the Year, and I can tell you that it's been a blast! I loved attending the Audies gala event, meeting Paula Poundstone, and continuing to be a big advocate for audiobooks. The application and rules are available on the APA's website, and I urge you to apply--don't be shy. The judges recognize all kinds of bloggers and audiobook fans. It doesn't cost you anything to apply, so JUST DO IT.
  • Talking about the Audies, in case you missed it, this year's Audies nominees were announced a couple of weeks ago. The full list of audiobooks and narrators can be found on the Audies page of AudioFile Magazine (you'll see a link there for the pdf / press release). Check out the honored audiobooks and then get listening.
  • Talking even more about the Audies, if you want to have a say about the unofficial winners this year, then be sure to look for Jennifer of Literate Housewife on Twitter, Litsy, her blog, and Facebook and check out Armchair Audies for information on getting involved. (BTW: Jennifer won the first Audiobook Blogger of the Year Award, and I know she too would encourage you to apply!)
Phew! I think I've flooded you with enough audiobook news for one week! If you listen to audiobooks, let me know what you're listening to right now; I'm always looking for my next favorite audiobook.

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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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