11 December 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 3 Novels to Read Right Now

3 Books to Read in DecemberEvery year I tell myself I'm going to jump right on holiday shopping and decorating so I won't have any last-minute craziness. Ask me how I'm doing this year. Ummm . . . actually, don't ask.

We are totally behind as usual. And as usual we've bought ourselves several things we saw at the stores but have bought almost nothing for family and friends. Ooops.

I didn't seem to have much time to sit down and read last week. I managed to get through two audiobooks and one eBook and made progress on another by combining audio and print.

Last week, I also posted a short round-up of audiobooks linked by their fiery titles over on the AudioFile blog.

What I Read Last Week

Reveiw: A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley HayI finally got around to listening to A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay (Simon & Schuster Audio; 8 hr, 49 min). The novel takes place in Brisbane and focuses on two women and one house. Emily's children move her out of her house of 60 years to assisted living. While trying to adjust to her new surroundings, Emily remembers the significant moments of her life in the house she shared with her late husband. Lucy and her husband have just moved into Emily's old house, where Lucy is adjusting to motherhood, life without a job, and living in a new city. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two women's perspectives: They are on opposite ends of family life and each has a unique relationship to the house itself. Although narrator Fiona Hardingham's performance was expressive and engaging, both the story and the audiobook were only okay for me. I didn't relate very well to Lucy, though I've never been in her situation. Emily made me think about my mother and grandmothers, so that was a positive point. (full audiobook review to be published by AudioFile)

Review: The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter by Michael J. SullivanI couldn't wait to listen to the new Michael J. Sullivan novel, The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter (Audible Studios; 13 hr, 41 min). I have gushed over and over about this adult fantasy series featuring professional thieves Royce and Hadrian. In this outing, they are hired by a wealthy merchant who becomes worried when his daughter, who has married a duke, is reported as missing after her coach is attacked and her companion is left for dead. This new story has all the components I've come to expect from Sullivan: humor, action, battles, intrigue, complex plot, and two of my favorite characters of all time. I truly can't say enough good things about Sullivan's stories and universe. If you like epic adult fantasy you will love these books. Although I think you could possibly start with this new novel, I suggest reading the books either in order of publication or in chronological order of Royce and Hadrian's partnership. Narrator Tim Gerard Reynolds was born to read these books. He perfectly nails the personalities of the characters and the pacing of the story. (full audiobook review to be published by AudioFile)

Review: The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston I read The War Bride's Scrapbook by Caroline Preston (Ecco). I just love books that are put together with fun, clever graphics, and Preston is an expert in this format. This is the story of a young woman who meets a soldier in 1943 and marries him just days later, right before he ships out for Europe. The entire story is told through diary entries, letters, postcards, photos, vintage magazine ads, and more. Although many of the challenges faced by Lila and Perry--during the war and after the homecoming--are predictable, the novel sets the mood of the 1940s and tells a universal story lived out by so many thousands of couples across the country and around the globe during World War II. If you've never read a scrapbook novel before, you're in for a treat. There is so much to look at on every page of this book, and it's fun to read a story told through a variety of printed media. The photos and period magazine clippings are wonderful--look at the clothes, the hair, the cars! Plus we see examples of V-mail and newspaper articles, telegrams and movie tickets. Don't miss this one! (review copy provided by the publisher)

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09 December 2017

Weekend Cooking: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon

Review: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam BannonI love the holiday season. I like the decorations, the parties and celebrations, and—of course—the food. But you know what happens when January rolls around? I’ve pretty much had it and am so, so ready to get back to real life.

The first thing I do once we’ve finished the leftovers from our annual New Year’s Eve dinner party is take hold of our diet. I don’t make resolutions; instead I simply return to sane, healthy eating.

One new cookbook that has me already looking forward to January is Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon’s Healthy Meal Prep (DK, Dec. 12). You may know the pair as the hosts of YouTube’s Fit Couple Cooks.

The couple's goal is to show everyone how easy it is to eat healthfully if you take the time to plan and prep your meals. Totnatore and Bannon should know, they themselves lost weight and improved their fitness by eating the types of meals they share with their many fans.

For Tornatore and Bannon, the trick is all planning ahead, which saves time and money and guarantees they eat well. Healthy Meal Prep compiles all their best tips and tricks plus provides twelve weeks of meal plans. Each plan takes two to three hours to prep and provides a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for a single person. Have more mouths to feed? The authors suggest that you “scale up the recipes as needed or meal prep . . . every few days instead of once a week.”

Review: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam BannonEach meal plan includes an equipment list, shopping list, recipes, step-by-step directions for once-a-week cooking, tips, serving instructions, snack suggestions, vegetarian and/or vegan options, and more. There’s a full-color photo of each week’s completed meals, and each four-serving recipe is easy to follow and includes nutrition information.

The meals themselves are nutritionally balanced, are devoid of processed foods, and require no last-minute additions. Many of the dishes are also low carb, vegetarian, and low sugar. What's more, the couple's nutritious tricks are very easy to incorporate into your daily life; for example, their quick-to-make homemade ketchup is sweetened by a couple of dates instead of white sugar.

So what about the meals? Each meal plan provides six breakfasts (all the same) plus four servings each of three main meals (that’s twelve meals), which can be used for lunches or dinners. Breakfasts include make-ahead oatmeal, frittatas, yogurt cups, and pancakes. The main-meal recipes call for common, everyday ingredients to make dishes such as Mediterranean chicken with vegetables and rice, pesto salmon with roasted peppers and quinoa, black bean and lentil nachos with chips and lime, and turkey meatballs with broccoli and polenta (click the image just above to see more).

Each meal comes with assembly instructions and serving tips. So you cook one day and have twelve meals packaged and ready to eat all week. The portion sizes are satisfying for the average person, though you can, of course, adjust as needed for your own tastes.

Who will love this book? Healthy Meal Prep is geared specifically to people who are willing to cook but feel they just don’t have time during the week to put together a nutritious lunch to take to work or to get dinner going once they get home. It would also be perfect for a young person in his or her first apartment and for families with staggered eating times. People who are watching their diet for weight loss or general health can safely eat Tornatore and Bannon's meals. And, finally, I plan to use the book specifically for make-ahead lunches.

Review: Healthy Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam BannonAlthough I encourage motivated cooks to work their way through all twelve weeks of meals, I also strongly encourage people to mix and match the meals according their own situation. Remember, each meal makes four servings, and you can use those meals in a variety of ways.

Are Wednesday nights always a grind? Cook one meal ahead and save it for that midweek madness. Is everyone in your family on a different dinner schedule thanks to meetings, practice, and other activities? No worries; cooking ahead means there will always be a nutritious dinner ready and waiting in the refrigerator.

Cooking for a shut-in, new father, or elderly parents? With the recipes in Healthy Meal Prep and a couple hours of your time, you can be a godsend to a person in need.

Okay, what don't I like? Honestly, I don’t find much to complain about. My only real issue is this: although almost all of the meals can be eaten cold, I think the majority would be tastier heated up. That should be no problem for most workers and for at-home dining, but not everyone has access to a microwave during the day. In addition, experienced cooks may want to borrow Healthy Meal Prep from the library, reading through the tips and types of recipes so they can adapt their own family favorites to once-a-week cooking.

Watch the video to see how much fun Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon have in the kitchen and to get an idea of the types of recipes you’ll find in Healthy Meal Prep.

(Note: all images in this post are from Healthy Meal Prep and are used in the context of this review (any blurriness is totally my fault). All rights remain with the original copyright holder: DK Publishing. Thanks to the publicist for a review copy; all thoughts are my honest opinion.)
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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07 December 2017

AudioFile Magazine's Editor Picks for 2017's Best Audiobooks in Biography & History

AudioFile Magazine's best audiobooks in biography and historyDecember is all about the best-of books--and audiobooks--of the year. This year, I'm happy to be celebrating the best listens in biography and history of 2017 with AudioFile magazine.

The editors of the magazine tapped 12 audiobooks as deserving special recognition in this category. Here, I feature the book covers, give you a hint of what each audiobook is all about, and share some sound samples and videos.

Don't forget to check out AudioFile magazine's review of each winning biography and history audiobook; just click through the title links in the following list. To see all the winners in all the categories, read the AudioFile ezine "2017 Best Audiobooks".

To learn even more about the don't-miss audiobooks from 2017, be sure to follow @AudioFileMag on Twitter or like AudioFile Magazine on Facebook.

AudioFile Magazine's best audiobooks in biography and history

Between Them by Richard Ford, read by Christian Baskous: The novelist's first work of nonfiction is a tribute to his parents. For more about this audiobook and how Baskous approached the narration of this memoir, watch this video:

Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport, read by Xe Sands: Amazing firsthand accounts of the early days of the Russian Revolution in 1917 Petrograd.

Grant by Ron Chernow, read by Mark Bramhall: The well-known, prize-winning historian and biographer turns his attention to the Civil War general and 18th president of the United States. Here's a sample of Bramhall's narration:

The Jersey Brothers by Sally Mott Freeman, read by Cassandra Campbell: Three brothers joined the navy during World War II but only two came home; this is the true-life story of the search for the youngest brother, who was reported missing in action.

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, read by Alfred Molina: One of our best biographers brings to life the story of the definitive Renaissance man. Listen to a sample of Molina's narration:

Lucy and Desi by Warren G. Harris, read by Jim Frangione: A behind-the-scenes look at what was once television's most famous and loving couple.

AudioFile Magazine's best audiobooks in biography and history

A Mind at Play by Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni, read by Jonathan Yen: All about Claude Shannon, one of the often-overlooked pioneers of the digital information age. Here is narrator Yen's reaction to innovator and his work:

Remember the Ladies by Angela P. Dodson, read by Suzanne Toren: On the hundredth anniversary of women's suffrage, a tribute to those who fought for equal voting rights.

Sting Like a Bee by Leigh Montville, read by J. D. Jackson: An examination of Mohammad Ali's objection to serving in the Vietnam War. Listen to a sample of Jackson's narration:

The Vietnam War by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, read by Ken Burns: This is the official companion audiobook for Ken Burns's documentary series on the controversial war.

A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous, Philip Boehm [trans.], read by Isabel Keating: An eye-witness account of the Russian invasion of Berlin and the last weeks of the war.

The World Remade by G. J. Meyer, read by Rob Shapiro: A look at the far-reaching political and economic implications of World War I, especially from an American perspective. Here is narrator Shapiro's thoughts about the audiobook:

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06 December 2017

Wordless Wednesday 475

Covered Bridge

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

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05 December 2017

11 Christmas-Themed Novels to Read This Month

'Tis the season to read holiday books. Although many of you may be seeking out books about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Druids, the solstice, and other December holidays or events or religious observances, today I'm featuring 11 books that have something to do with Christmas. You'll find humor, mysteries, a middle grade book, and adult fiction. Enjoy the Christmas spirit, or bypass these books for tales that fit your own celebrations.

  • 11 Christmas-themed books to read in 2017Bel, Book, and Scandal by Maggie McConnon (St. Martin's, Dec. 5): A wedding caterer who takes a healthy interest in crime. In this outing she's on the trail of a missing person.
  • A Bella Flora Christmas by Wendy Wax (Penguin, Nov. 7): Old friends gather to celebrate the holiday in this brand new Ten Beach Road novella.
  • A Christmas Return by Anne Perry (Ballantine, Nov. 7): An anonymous Christmas gift provides a clue to a long-ago unsolved murder, prompting grandmother Mariah Ellison to visit an old friend; set in 1896 England.
  • The Ghost of Christmas Past by Rhys Bowen (Minotaur, Nov. 14): PI Molly Murphy Sullivan and her husband are celebrating Christmas 1906 at the home of friends when a young woman knocks on the door, claiming to be the hosts' long-lost daughter.
  • The Gift by Shelley Shepard Gray (Avon Inspire, Nov. 7): A series of not-so-accidental accidents threaten to mar Christmas for a newly arrived family in this Amish of Hart County story.
  • The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Oct. 31): One of Santa's secret sources of magic comes from Amelia, the first child to have ever received a Christmas present; this is her story, set in Victorian London.
  • 11 Christmas-themed books to read in 2017Hark the Herald Angels Slay by Vicki Delany (Berkley, Nov. 28): Christmas in July in a small town in upstate New York will come to a murderous halt unless a gift shop owner can track down the killer.
  • Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb (William Morrow, Oct. 3): When Evie's brother and best friend go off to war in 1914, everyone is sure they'll be home for Christmas; this epistolary novel reveals their fates.
  • Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva (Flatiron, Oct. 31): This historical fiction imagines how Dickens came to write his famous Christmas story by reimagining that very tale.
  • Not a Creature Was Purring by Krista Davis (Berkley, Nov. 7): Christmas in West Virginia is tinged with the wrong kind of red, when Holly Miller stumbles on a murder victim at the holiday market; she and her furry helpers are determined to find the killer.
  • Twas the Nightcap before Christmas by Katie Blackburn (Faber & Faber, Sept. 26): After putting the kids to sleep Mom and Dad get a little too carried away with holiday cheer; good fun (and a good stocking stuffer).

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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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